Interfaith week tackles tensions

The first interfaith week is being held in England, to strengthen relations and awareness.

The government - which is supporting the event - said it hoped religious communities could help tackle problems such as the environment and parenting.

Communities Secretary John Denham said the co-operation of faith groups played an important role in reducing tensions amid provocation by extremist groups.

Events will include football matches that could pitch vicars against imams.

A wide range of activities will bring together people from the main religions in England between 15 and 21 November.

According to the 2001 Census, Britain has more than 41m Christians, about 1.5m Muslims, 558,000 Hindus, 336,000 Sikhs, 267,000 Jews and 149,000 Buddhists.

Pilgrimage walk

Faith groups have been united in the past in accusing the government of marginalising religious values, said the BBC's religious affairs correspondent Robert Pigott.

Mr Denham - who is a secular humanist - said £2m would be spent on projects encouraging diverse groups to tackle local problems together.

The week is being co-ordinated by the Inter Faith Network for the UK and the government's Communities and Local Government department, but both said they wanted the event to be "community-led".

The Inter Faith Network links faith groups and educational and academic bodies with an interest in inter-faith issues.

It includes national faith community representative bodies of Baha'i, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jain, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh and Zoroastrian religions.

The plan for Inter Faith Week was devised after a similar event held in Scotland was a deemed a success, they said.

The week will include seminars to build understanding of religious differences, art exhibitions and practical projects such as 1,000 hours of voluntary work being planned by students at 16 universities.

People of different religions will also walk together on a pilgrimage to the Anglican shrine at Walsingham in Norfolk.