Almost 300,000 households across England and Wales have people of different faiths living alongside each other. That’s according to new data analysis from the census carried out in March 2021.
Of England and Wales's 17.3 million multi-person households, 285,000 (1.5 per cent) were recorded as having at least two different faiths.
In some areas of London, including Hounslow, Westminster and Barnet and Harrow, one in 20 families – around five per cent - were recorded as having at least two different faiths.
Speaking to Premier, Rev Dr Richard Sudworth, the Church of England's national inter-religious affairs adviser, said:
“I think underlining these statistics will be a whole combination of factors. We’ve got love partnerships across religion, households, extended families, and increasingly, many folks from other countries where it's been quite normal. So many Nigerian Christian backgrounds will know relatives and have relatives of another faith too.”
Outside London, Slough in Berkshire had the highest proportion, with 4.6 per cent of households having at least two religions, with Cardiff standing at 1.8 per cent.
Blaenau Gwent had the lowest proportion across England and Wales (0.4 per cent of multi-person households), followed by Merthyr Tydfil, Hartlepool and Caerphilly (all 0.5 per cent).
Rev Sudworth told Premier this isn’t surprising:
“It’s variable. In towns and cities, there will be a similar pattern to London, some of the urban towns in the north similarly, but rural areas are still a kind of dominant residual white Christian community that perhaps looks a bit more mono-cultural.”
Rev Sudworth, who is also the Archbishop of Canterbury’s secretary for inter-religious affairs, said the analysis shows the rich complexity of religious life in our nations today:
“I think it's fair to say that mixed-faith families and households are not without challenge—real differences around how you compromise and how you live well together. But actually, what the statistics really reveal is that in an age when we often look at religion as a problem - as somehow divisive - actually, very many people live with this difference very well every day.
“It’s got to be worked out in each context. I think the underlying principle is that you always bring the integrity of your own faith, and we don't need to sort of somehow merge them all together. But I think there are ways, and many households will talk of how they can learn to share in some of the times of joy or sorrow with real respect for the other traditions.
“The best way we can live together is to recognise the difference, not see it as an obstacle, but see something to respect and treasure. As Christians, we dig deep into our own traditions. So let’s pray, read the Bible, and go to church, but let's put our walls down so we can be alongside. So we can learn things from people of other traditions and be challenged and live together.”
At the time of the census, a total of 24.8 million households (including single-person homes) showed that 11million (44 per cent) were recorded as Christian-only, while 3.1 million (12.6 per cent) contained someone who was Christian and someone who had no religion.