Schoolchildren are not the only members of British society who need to understand faith better. The report pointed out that leaders of the public sector required better understanding of religious communities and beliefs to tackle major problems, from faith-based extremism (especially terrorist radicalization in prisons) to forced marriages.
Bloom was particularly critical of the government’s record on the latter, citing an estimated 5,000 to 8,000 forced marriages a year among Roma, Orthodox Jewish and Muslim communities, and called for faith officials to be prosecuted if they knowingly conduct such weddings.
“I’m very angry that government has not done more despite its fine words, and I’m angry that previous governments haven’t done more,” Bloom told reporters at a Religion Media Centre briefing in releasing the report.
Among Bloom’s 22 recommendations was an independent office that would champion faith in addition to expanding the role of the government’s existing Prime Minister’s Special Envoy for Freedom of Religion or Belief. He suggested that the office bring in a team of experts to advise it to help develop better relations with different faiths.
Bloom also recommended faith literacy training for all public sector staff; holding regular roundtables with national faith leaders; adopting working definitions of “religion,” “belief” and “faith”; and reinforcing distinctions between extremist Islamism and Islam, and between Islamist extremists and ordinary Muslims.
Bloom leaves his post as the government’s faith engagement adviser in just a few weeks. What happens to the report under Johnson’s current successor, Rishi Sunak (the first Hindu to lead a British government), or whether any of its recommendations will be accepted is not clear.
This article originally appeared on ReligionNews.com.