Project aims to foster stronger relations between faith communities

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Chief Constable Simon Cole sits down to dinner with Leicester family

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Issued on 11/10/18 at 2:13 p.m.

A project to bring about stronger relations between faith communities and Leicestershire Police saw Chief Constable Simon Cole sit down to share a meal with a Leicester family last night.

The meal, which comes in the run up to national Hate Crime Awareness Week which begins on 13 October, is one of several which will take place between families from various faith and cultural backgrounds and officers in the coming weeks.

It is part of an international funded project being led by Leicester charity, the St Philip’s Centre, to foster greater understanding and involvement between different faiths and cultures in diverse cities including Antwerp, in Belgium, and Rotterdam in The Netherlands.

The unique project entitled “Cops, Communities, and Consent”, saw Mr Cole sit down to dinner with Muslim family, Ismail Jogi and Naadira Nurgat and their two sons aged 12 and 15 years, at their home in Humberstone, alongside Sergeant Kev Mistry, where they informally discussed topics including perspectives on policing, careers, aspirations and hopes for the future.

Other faiths hosting meals include Christian, Hindu, Jewish and Sikh families, among others.

Mr Cole said: “I was delighted to join Ismail and Naadira to share a meal.

“Having these conversations allows us to open doors further into other communities and helps foster mutual respect and collaboration.

“Leicester, as we know, is one of the country’s most multi-cultural cities but there is always more work to be done and that includes ensuring that our force is reflective of the people it serves. That’s why I hope we can break down some barriers to learn how best to encourage more people from a diverse range of faiths to join the force in roles that are rewarding, varied and bring with them a huge amount of respect and career opportunity.”

Ismail said: “We spoke about a great many topics, from Islamophobia to the perception of the police to community relations, police recruitment and budget pressures. It was a two way conversation and I feel there is now a greater understanding on both sides.”

Naadira added: "Both officers were very down to earth and eager to learn and understand diverse communities. I was also impressed with their knowledge, compassion and empathy for vulnerable people and their needs."

The project is funded by the Open Society Foundation which works to build vibrant and tolerant democracies. It will see officers share and develop learning with European colleagues.

Faith leaders will also be invited to ‘shadow’ local officers in their roles in order to get a greater understanding of what this involves. In addition, an external ‘Forces Faith Forum’ has been created to rotate between different places of worship and assist in reviewing force policies and actions.

Riaz Ravat, deputy director of St Philip’s Centre said: “The meals provide an informal and open way for the police to hear from real families – people who ordinarily only encounter the police if there is a need to. They will take place in a spirit of hospitality and welcome. There is no set agenda and so I’m confident that a variety of topics will be discussed to aid mutual understanding. “I am particularly pleased that here in Leicestershire, we are working to bring people together using very simple but effective methods.”

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