Many of the discussions that take place in the House of Lords include a Bishop from time to time. On Wednesday there was a particularly important but brief subject being raised. The title was “Domestic Abuse – Question” and on this occasion one of the Bishops did participate. I have had the privilege to meet the Bishop of Rochester, James Langstaff in the past and he is someone I have a great deal of confidence in. I met him in Rochester, not long after he took on his role as leader of their Diocese in 2010. We met because in his previous role he had been the Bishop with a key role for prison based issues and I was helping to set up a charity called Sussex Pathways which supports people who are leaving prison. He is certainly someone who has a good grasp of the challenges facing our communities. So on Wednesday he raised an equally important issue which is how faith communities need to help people who become impacted by domestic abuse. His statement was
My Lords, I have sad personal experience of a family situation where the perpetrator of the abuse was an older person, and we are all fearful that lockdown may have led to an increase in such instances. In that context, I am pleased that my diocese of Rochester is the first in the Church of England to establish a strategic partnership with the White Ribbon Campaign. In a world where such abuse, especially when it involves older people, often remains hidden, will the Minister commit to meeting with Members of these Benches, and perhaps other faith leaders, to discuss how the Domestic Abuse Bill’s guidance might empower faith communities to be part of the solution?
The response was very brief and came from Baroness Susan Williams of Trafford who is the Minister of State in the Home Office and responsible for countering extremism
I am very sorry to hear the right reverend Prelate’s story. I most certainly will meet with him.
So my own reflection is how far and how broad could this response go. It is certainly the case that domestic abuse has been discussed in a number of faith groups in the past and some work has taken place. However sadly there is far more work to do. If faith communities were going to make a radical change in the light of this statement from James Langstaff which is something I would personally hope could be achieved, this needs to go beyond the hierarchical leaders in a few of the high profile churches. These of course would include the Church of England and Roman Catholic Church and it would need to go deep into their structures in each of their Dioceses. It would also need to go to groups that are part of Churches Together in England including the Baptist, Methodist and United Reformed Churches as well as networks such as Pioneer, Elim and New Frontiers and the many Evangelical Alliance members. The number of non Christian faith communities which include the Jewish and Islamic communities is also very significant. I would like to encourage James to work with a whole range of networks and structures so that this comment really makes a difference and will assist people in every community in the UK.