Places of Worship Unite Across Boundaries 5 May 2015

New research released today by the Social Integration Commission provides a fascinating snapshot into the role of different institutions and cultural activities at bringing people together across lines of ethnicity, age and income. The data suggests that activities such as attending a place of worship or watching a sporting event – activities often seen as divisive or ‘tribal’ – have an enabling role to play in encouraging social integration and facilitating social mixing.

Places of worship were discovered to be locations where people from different ethnic, generational and social backgrounds were likely to mix and interact with one another. They received an overall score of 57 per cent, slightly lower than sporting events which were given a score of 59 per cent. As you might expect, places of worship were particularly good at bringing different generations together, bridging an age gap which few other institutions can.

They were also notably successful, more so than sporting events, at bridging ethnic divides, with places of worship being given a score of 25 per cent for ethnic integration – nearly twice the average of other institutions.

The final criterion was social background. In previous research by the same commission, class was identified as being sometimes more important than race as a dividing factor for society. Places of worship once again excelled with a score of 27 per cent.

Matthew Taylor, Chair of the Social Integration Commission, said:

“Institutions play a huge role in determining how and with whom we interact. Our research shows that, perhaps contrary to perceived wisdom, activities such as attending a place of worship or a sporting event can bring people from all sorts of backgrounds together.

“These institutions could play a leading role in promoting social integration. Sporting and religious bodies should explore what more they can do to help build a better integrated society.”

The research didn’t provide an insight into the differences between places of worship and religious affiliations. Were there any differences between churches, mosques and temples? And did places of worship create any boundaries of interaction between faith communities? Hopefully, these questions can be answered in future research.


About Abdul-Azim Ahmed

Dr Abdul-Azim Ahmed is Editor of On Religion magazine. He holds a doctorate in religious studies and an MA in Islam in Contemporary Britain.

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