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“Get connected to challenge stereotypes,” says Bishop of Birmingham for Inter Faith week

The Bishop of Birmingham, the Rt Revd David Urquhart, is issuing a community challenge for national Inter Faith week - to get connected with people of different faiths and ethnicities "to challenge our stereotypes and broaden our imagination". He will be speaking at the launch of the Faithful Friends photographic exhibition tomorrow (Saturday November 17), which has striking images to celebrate relationships between people of different faiths.

Faithful Friends features 15 portraits of people who have met each other through the Near Neighbours programme - a Government-funded initiative which encourages people of different faith or ethnicity to meet each other, develop trusting relationships and work together to transform their local area. In Birmingham, Near Neighbours has funded 88 projects in 13 central wards bringing an estimated 3,000 people together.

Bishop David said: "Friendships that build bridges between people of different faiths and ethnicities are really good for us as individuals, enriching our lives, challenging our stereotypes and broadening our imagination.

"They are also good for communities, strengthening them, removing prejudices and healing fragmentation. Friendships have the potential to move us from distant respect to deep appreciation, from mere tolerance to full participation in founding healthy, peaceful and generous communities. Most of the major faiths urge us to love God and love our neighbours. Let us together build friendships that change us and transform the places in which we live."

In Leicester, the Highfields Youth Forum is also running a Near Neighbours funded photography exhibition to celebrate Inter Faith week . The Forum brings together young people from different ethnic backgrounds on local initiatives to address issues such as peer pressure, drugs, and identity.

Dr Toby Howarth, the Archbishop of Canterbury's Secretary for Inter Religious Affairs, said: "The Bishop of Birmingham's challenge reminds us of the importance of being connected to our neighbours, friends and colleagues of all faiths and none. This year's extended inter faith week gives us all a chance to build new partnerships and celebrate the community where we live and work. Near Neighbours is a great example of how this is already being put into practice."

Notes
Near Neighbours http://www.cuf.org.uk/near-neighbours

Inter Faith week http://www.interfaithweek.org/

The Faithful Friends Photography Exhibition will run at St Martin in the Bullring Church from November 18th to November 24th. There is a free photography workshop at the church on Tuesday November 20th at 2.30pm and the Christian-Muslim Forum are launching their report from their recent work with women on Monday November 26th, also at St Martin's Church.