On 16 May 2018, CSTP is supporting a St. Mary’s University and Las Casas Institute series of seminars hosted by COMECE in Brussels on the much contested question of the integration of minorities, migrants, and asylum seekers. COMECE is the secretariat serving the Bishops’ Conferences of the member states of the European Union. It is a major and respected channel for dialogue with the international civil service of the European Union, Council, Commission and Parliament. As such its influence and work extends into 27 different countries, a multiplier effect that the CSTP can rarely achieve for issues of Catholic social justice.
The speaker on this occasion, Dame Louise Casey, is no stranger to contested issues. Her work on integration in the United Kingdom, The Casey Review: a review into Opportunity and Integration, undertaken at the request of the Cameron Conservative government, was published on 5 December 2016. The product of extensive research, it was characteristically hard-hitting and challenging. It seems to have been put into the “too-difficult-to-deal-with-at-the –moment” file by Prime Minister Teresa May, as nothing significant has been done by way of follow up to is recommendations by the government. Yet the questions around integration given factual underpinning in the Review, multi-culturalism good or bad, the acceptability of different approaches to gender in different cultures, what might be called British values, why certain minorities do badly at school and obtaining subsequent employment, persistent inequality through several generations, remain highly pertinent not just for the UK but for all of Europe today. The role of religion in facilitating or hindering opportunity and integration is, of course, an important part of the debate.
For this reason the title of the seminars chosen for the day is Integration: navigating religion, identity and conflict. The day has two sessions. The first, a lunchtime session, is designed for MEPs, EU officials, ambassadors, in short, policy makers. This will be chaired by the Rt. Honourable Ruth Kelly, a former holder of a number of key government positions in the Blair and Brown Labour governments, notably Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government and Minister for Women and Equalities.
The second and afternoon session is for NGOs, leaders of different faith communities, academics and minority leaders. It will have Alison Phipps, Professor of Languages and Intercultural Studies from the department of Education, Glasgow University and UNESCO Chair of Refugee Integration through Languages and the Arts, and Ruth Kelly, as discussants.
It is CSTP’s hope that bringing this distinctly British experience and contribution to an issue involving all of the EU member states, the EU Council, Commission and Parliament and preoccupying many will act as a modest counter to the contemporary attempt to create a binary opposition between being European and being British.
Requests for a place at the seminar should be sent to Maud Oger, COMECE, 19, Square de Meeus, B-1050 Bruxelles, Belgium. Telephone +322-235-05-10. Places are limited and by invitation.