Blunkett urges religious leaders to heal society

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The Home Secretary, David Blunkett, will make an appeal to religious community leaders today to play a central role in fighting the "undercurrents of violence and hostility" in Britain's towns and cities.

Mr Blunkett, a former Methodist preacher, believes religious leaders have a key part to play in healing the "lesions" that have divided some British communities.

The new Home Secretary has been deeply concerned by recent outbreaks of violence and racial tension in Oldham and Leeds. Last week, he ordered a review into the factors that led to the Oldham riots and yesterday 10 men were bound over for a year after they admitted breaching the peace during a National Front demonstration at the weekend.

In a speech today at Methodist Central Hall in London, Mr Blunkett will appeal to faith leaders to take a greater role in preventing tensions. He will say: "We need to watch the hidden lesions within communities and we need to provide a voice against the undercurrents of hostility and violence in society. This cannot be a matter for politicians alone."

The speech is a clear signal that faith will play an increasing role in government policy on tackling social division and fighting crime. Mr Blunkett believes communities are capable of changing their environments and has been impressed by the activities of tenants on the Cowley estate in Brixton, south London, who have driven out local crack cocaine dealers.

The Home Secretary believes local religious leaders are often best placed to energise and mobilise communities and to be advocates for "decency and progress".