• All Party Parliamentary Group
    (Photo: Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha)
    All Party Parliamentary Group visits Birmingham
  • All Party Parliamentary Group
    (Photo: Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha)
    All Party Parliamentary Group visits Birmingham
By Myles Collier, Christian Post Contributor
February 21, 2013|4:59 pm

On Monday, members of the All Party Parliamentary Group's (APPG) delegation on Faith and Society visited Birmingham, England as part of a project to determine how faith-based initiatives are helping the disadvantaged in cities across the United Kingdom.

Members of the APPG that visited Birmingham included Member of Parliament and delegation leader Stephen Timms as well as MP Jim Dobbin, Baroness Kathleen Richardson, Lord Sheikh and Sir Peter Bottomley, all of whom have made the commitment to bring different faiths together to serve the best interests of the community.

Timms was eager to reveal that recent programs involved providing food to those struggling with finding enough to eat. The work was being facilitated through food banks and has experienced all manner of people give their time and efforts.

"Three new food banks open every week at the moment, and they fed between them half a million people last year. They involve volunteers who may have no connection with the church, but there is a church at the heart of each of them. Without that, their remarkable impact would not have been possible," he said.

The APPG is tasked with understanding the impact of various social projects in conjunction with the rise in "social activism" across the U.K. The group is currently working with food banks, employment support efforts, health care and other programs aimed at serving the youth and vulnerable.

The delegation visited faith centers in Birmingham, such as the city's central mosque and synagogue, to discuss how faith leaders can better serve those most in need while furthering God's message.

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"The aim of the group is to highlight and explore the positive contributions being made by faith groups in U.K. communities and overseas, to aid understanding and recognition of this movement of faith-based activism, and to learn from international best practice," Stephen Timms, chair of APPG's Faith and Society, told The Christian Post during an interview.

The APPG's delegation on Faith and Society was created in 2012 in order to determine the measurable impact that faith-based organizations have on the surrounding landscape. It is also committed to highlighting the contributions that faith-based initiatives have within communities.

"We held a number of roundtables which explored the work of faith-based groups in communities by focusing on the following themes: welfare to work; children and young people; health and well-being; and international work," Timms said.

The APPG is growing fast and already has over eighty members from both sides of the political spectrum in the House of Commons and in House of Lords. With the increasing interest, the coming year will see the development of a "charter" to secure the confidence of locals working in unison with the APPG and other faith-based organizations, given the relatively recent rise of APPG's notability.

"Many of the groups we have spoken to have reported that local authorities are often uneasy about … commissioning services from faith-based organizations, and we think a charter could help," Timms added.

The APPG will also be looking to advocate for programs and other measures that will enhance the outreach and effectiveness of different initiatives.

"We will also look to press in Parliament for a legislative and regulatory environment which will enable the full potential of these organizations to be realized and sustained," Timms said.