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New Year: it's time to meet your neighbours

Politicians and the CofE have joined forces to encourage people to resolve to meet their neighbours in 2016 ...

Communities Minister Baroness Williams is urging people make a New Year’s Resolution to get involved in their local community in 2016, while making friends and learning a new skill at a Near Neighbours Project.
Near Neighbours was set up in 2011 in partnership between the Church Urban Fund and the Archbishop’s Council and is funded by the Department for Communities and Local Government.
There are now more than 1,000 projects across the country with everything from baking classes to feeding the homeless and even acting classes for traditional pantomimes.
Communities Minister Baroness Williams said: “Every year people set themselves New Year’s Resolutions to exercise more, cut out the cake or spruce up their home. And as the festive season fades from memory so do these resolutions.
“But this year I will be making a resolution I can act upon, one to work and engage with my local community more over the coming year.
“Near Neighbours does great work all year round, bringing people together from across different faith and ethnic groups. But they need your support to keep bringing communities together.
“So as you’re toasting in the New Year with fireworks or drink or a cosy night in, make sure to promise to participate in your community this year.”
Near Neighbours uses the infrastructure of the Church of England and provides small grants and support to grassroots groups and multi-faith communities. Funding is given to communities with significant religious diversity to help them run projects which will bring about lasting benefits to their neighbourhoods. Their work has so far benefitted over 750,000 people.
This month one project in West Smethwick, near Birmingham, has arranged for a local nursery to perform a carol concert to parents followed by a Christmas party.
Their ‘Toddlers Christmas Carol’ is one of several events that they run around the key religious holidays in the community and organisers hope that lasting friendships are formed and those from all faith backgrounds learn what the festive period means to Christians.
Laura Richmond, organiser for the West Smethwick Near Neighbours’ group said: “It is very important to bring people together and to celebrate everyone’s culture. We all value our community and this Christmas we will celebrate that.”
In Bury, Solidarity, a group that works with Asylum Seeker and Refugee families, has arranged a Christmas pantomime, and the town’s Mayor will be donning a Father Christmas costume to hand out presents.
Rick Coates, Chairman of Solidarity, said: “This year, because of Near Neighbours’ funding, we can introduce new arrivals to different aspects of British culture, like the pantomime, which everyone can enjoy together.
“We always have a very wide range of people coming along to our events, in terms of countries and cultures and faiths. But whatever people’s religions or backgrounds, everyone can share in the Christmas spirit.”
If you are interested in arranging your own interfaith event or want more information please contact Tim Burton-Jones on 020 7898 1452 or

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