Shared wisdom on civic engagement

At Together for the Common Good we value joint leadership for the Common Good, especially between church leaders of different Christian traditions, and also between leaders of different faiths and of no faith.

In this blog we highlight some examples of joint leadership between Catholic, Anglican and Jewish leaders united to build the Common Good together.

The Christian and Jewish traditions have long histories of wisdom on civic engagement and citizenship, and their institutions have been instrumental in laying the foundations for much of what we take for granted in contemporary civic society. Leaders of these civic institutions have much to offer secular deliberations on these matters. 

Cardinal Vincent Nichols gave evidence to the House of Lords Committee on Citizenship and Civic Engagement alongside Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, each of them providing expert insights from their respective traditions about how to cultivate a sense of mutual obligation and civic responsibility.

They raised concerns about 'fault lines' in society, the spiritual roots of British values, human dignity, human rights, education, religious freedom and the consequences of poor religious literacy on social cohesion. 

They both remarked that mere 'tolerance' was an unsatisfying value to aim for, compared with a genuinely shared common life. Rabbi Mirvis added that the Hebrew word for tolerance is sovlanut, which is derived from the word sevel, meaning to suffer. 

Asked about faith-based social action charities delivering services and their relationship with government, Cardinal Nichols expressed concerns about the constraints placed on Catholic charities.

He emphasised the importance of religious freedom, cautioning against moves towards uniformity, and advising that unity would be a better goal to aim for.

Click on the picture above to view the video (it's about an hour long).

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In a local context, reported in the Jewish Chronicle, Rabbi Herschel Gluck spoke about the successful partnership where his Jewish community and their Muslim neighbours work together. He said:

“I prefer the term ‘intercommunal’ to interfaith... it’s not about discussing theology, it’s about being neighbours - it’s been a real partnership. Both communities work equally together for the Common Good and for each other."

He added that "other areas could learn from our model, about how to have a constructive association with members of other communities.”

Click on the picture below to read the full article.

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Again the issues of citizenship, civic engagement and the future of the UK came up in a debate on education and society led by Archbishop Justin Welby in the House of Lords. 

It was striking that the contributions from Archbishop Welby and Rabbi Jonathan Sacks’ both strongly resonated with the language of the Common Good.

 

Their speeches revealed the extent of the common ground between them, each employing a rich narrative grounded in the shared roots of their traditions. For example:

"We live in a country where an overarching story which is the framework for explaining life has more or less disappeared....Utilitarianism rules, and skills move from being talents held for the Common Good....to being personal possessions for our own advantage." (Welby).

"We need to give our children....the strongest possible sense of collective responsibility for the Common Good....There is too much “I” and too little “we” in our culture, and we need to teach our children to care for others, especially for those who are not like us." (Sacks).

"Schools... are important intermediate institutions positioned between individuals and the state, which exist to...to be nurseries of community living. As well as to inspire, they need to develop stories of the Common Good and of community, not merely of tolerance." (Welby).

For the full Hansard text, click here or on the pictures above. No video or audio is available.

By contrast it is striking how meaningless 'tolerance' narratives sound compared with Common Good language.

With increasing examples of anti-semitism coming from both the far right and the hard left, making our friendship and solidarity with our Jewish neighbours visible has never been more important.

 

With thanks to the Jewish Chronicle and the British Parliament

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