Tag: Birmingham Conversations

Living at Peace in a world of Conflict

The latest series of The Birmingham Conversations focused in the theme of how we live at peace in a super-diverse city like Birmingham, when there is so much tension and conflict in the world that can easily cause animosity between people here.

The conversations explored meanings of peace, situations and issues that disrupt peace and the skills we need to be peace makers.

As always the group was made up of people from a variety of faith backgrounds who committed to being part of the process over a six month period. We also had a young adults stream, led by The Feast,  which worked with people aged 18-25 who looked at the same topics but used discussion activities more sited to their age and experiences.

As always, sharing food was a key part of the conversations which, whilst exploring some controversial topics, led to stronger friendships and sharing of some profoundly personal and moving stories. Listening to how people feel and their experiences of being a victim opened our eyes to the perceptions, experiences, faith and feelings of others that impacted all those who took part.

As a result of this programme a resource has been produced to equip others to lead similar conversations. The full resource along with a pack of pictures for use in the conversation can be downloaded here

Living at Peace final Digital

Living at Peace Images Digital

 

The Dance Tour Comes to an End

After visiting twenty two venues over 12 months covering 132 miles the artwork Dance has finished it’s tour of Birmingham (and occasionally over the border).

During that time it has been exhibited in:

Fourteen Churches, Three Synagogues, One Mandir, One Islamic Centre, One Cathedral, One FE College and one Art Gallery

It’s travelled from Rubery to Sutton Coldfield, from Smethwick to Acock’s Green and many places in between and been seen by several thousand people.

In all it’s travels Dance has clocked up an amazing 132 miles across Birmingham and the region.

The painting Dance has been supported by the ‘Maps of Conversationland’ which allowed people to engage with the topics of the Birmingham Conversations through pictures, poetry and questions.

The full list of venues Dance was exhibited in is:
Central Synagogue
Singers Hill Synagogue
St Mary’s Acock’s Green
Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery
St Mary’s Moseley
St Andrew’s Handsworth
St Peter’s Hall Green
St Michael’s Hall Green
St Chad’s Rubery
St Peter’s Maney
Holy Cross Bilsley
Walford Road Hindu Temple Tysley
Progressive Synagogue 5 ways
As Sufa Trust Aston
St Barnabas Erdington
All Saints Kings Heath
Holy Trinity Smethwick
Fircroft College
St Nicolas Kings Norton
St Philip’s Cathedral
St Germains Edgbaston
Christchurch Sparkbrook

There is a also a video which explains the process behind the creation of Dance and the Maps of Conversationland

Faith in the Public Sphere

The third ‘Birmingham Conversations’ took place recently on the theme of ‘Faith in the Public Sphere’ and explored the issue of how faith communities engage in all areas of public life.

The Conversations were attended by Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Humanists, Muslims and Sikhs as well as people involved in local politics, business and education.

The group met once a month for six months which enabled friendships to grow and for trust to be built up so that difficult or controversial topics could be considered.

Under the heading of ‘Faith in the Public Sphere’ we discussed what it would mean for faith communities, and by extension all communities, to flourish in the public sphere. Can everyone flourish or does the flourishing of one community necessitate the diminishing or restricting of another?

We then went on to consider how what this flourishing might look like at work, in places of education, in political life, in the media and in the street during festivals or demonstrations.

A Policy Report of the findings was written by Dr Andrew Davies from the University of Birmingham which includes specific recommendations and can be downloaded here faith-in-the-public-sphere-policy-recommendations

A Summary of the conversations was produced which includes questions for discussion and is written with members of the public in mind to enable different groups to join in the conversation. A copy of the summary can be downloaded here. map-of-birmingham-conversationland

We invited two local artists, Jake Lever and Mandy Ross, to be artists in residence and reflect on what they heard during the conversations. As well as creatively facilitating conversations they produced artworks at the end as a response to the conversations.

The responses were:
A video of the Conversations which you can view below

A ‘Map of Conversationland’ by Mandy Ross which gives a poetic and artistic response

map-of-conversationland

A painting ‘Dance’ by Jake Lever

Art Work

The painting is 375cm wide and 200cm high and comes in it’s own free standing display system. This is available for groups in the Birmingham area to host at no cost. It can be booked for a minimum of two weeks and comes with 100 copies of ‘A Map of Conversationland’. To enquire about hosting ‘Dance’ e-mail Debbie Browning at debbieb@cofebirmingham.com.

 

The Video in response to the Conversations

The Birmingham Conversations from Birmingham Conversations on Vimeo.

 

 

 

Birmingham Conversation: Faith and The Arts

Can art be a positive influence on interfaith dialogue?
How can art create new spaces for conversations between people of different faiths?
How can an understanding of faith and inter-faith dialogue impact the arts?
How do we talk about art or religion that causes offense to others?

These were just some of the questions discussed by a group of people involved in the arts and members of different faith communities.

Following the successful Birmingham Conversations, a second series of conversations was run in the autumn of 2015 to consider the connection or conflict between faith and art. The aim of the conversations was to explore:

‘How artists and people of different faiths can work together to create the conditions for communities to come together in new ways and share conversations that could not otherwise take place.’
The purpose of these conversations was to:
• build mutual understanding and respect for the opportunities and challenges of contemporary artistic work that relates to themes of faith and spirituality;
• increase confidence amongst participants to engage with arts and faith projects
• build new links between like-minded individuals, groups, networks and initiatives and nurture the community of interest in Birmingham and UK around arts and faith;
• develop ideas for high quality arts projects, happenings and events that bring people together in new ways in the city and make a positive contribution to quality of life and cohesion in Birmingham.

As with the first conversations, we were not looking for complete consensus on issues that are raised, but wanted to provide a space for creative, imaginative conversation around these themes.

The conversations took place over three months and was generously hosted by Anthony Collins Solicitors. A full report of the conversations can be downloaded here: Arts and Faith Conversation 2016

The Birmingham Conversations

The debate over the alleged  ‘Trojan Horse’ plot, along with other local issues and tensions have highlighted the need for people of faith in Birmingham to be able to discuss the way that faith is lived out in Birmingham. This means being willing to tackle contentious issues in a considered and mature way without causing offence or ducking the difficult questions. The aim is not necessarily to find total agreement but to enable issues to be discussed and offer ideas and a model that others can use to continue the conversation.
To this end Bishop David Urquhart has asked a team to set up the Birmingham Conversations on the theme of ‘What does Lived Faith Look like in a 21st Century City?’. The conversations are being facilitated by Mrs Sian Nicholas who has recently completed a studies in Inter-Faith Peacebuilding for Faith-Based Development Organisations  and lectures at Coventry University on Religion, Conflict and Peace
The conversations will be a series of six sessions between October and March to which we are asking twenty four participants from different faiths to commit to all six sessions. The people are not invited as representatives but are participating in their own right. People were invited from Christianity, Islam, Sikhism, Hinduism, Buddhism and Judaism.

The conversations are a means of enabling difficult conversations around ‘lived faith’ in Birmingham post ‘Trojan Horse’ and will deliver two distinct outcomes:

Firstly: a model of how people with very different perspectives can be enabled to discuss issues usually seen as too controversial, yet which impact the lives of many people on a daily basis.

Secondly: a record of the conversations including where there were changing attitudes, agreement or disagreement as a way of encouraging others to see how these topics can be discussed.
These outcomes will be disseminated through:
1) An academic report on the nature and conclusions from the conversations produced electronically
2) A lay persons’ summary of number 1 produced in hard copy and electronically
3) An academic analysis of the methodology with recommendations for groups wishing to use this process in the future
4) A day conference in mid. 2015 to announce and discuss the findings with a wider group

The title for the Birmingham Conversations is ‘What Does Lived Faith Look Like in a 21st Century City?’; the aim is to provide a means of enabling difficult conversations around lived faith in Birmingham post ‘Trojan Horse’.

Below are some definitions from the title to unpack what our intentions are:
Enabling Difficult Conversations: facilitating the creation of safe space, whereby participants feel able to freely express the deeply held convictions of those within their faith traditions with each other. Within this safe space participants should feel heard and understood, and feel able to discuss issues and to disagree in a respectful manner. The space should allow participants to be challenged and to be challenging in a constructive way that informs the reality of daily life for participants.
Lived Faith: Religion is often expressed as a series of propositions, belief, practices or assertions that those who adhere to that religion are supposed to hold. Faith is a much more difficult term to define, but often speaks to the individual’s own commitment to those beliefs or practices, or on occasion the way in which the beliefs and practices are expressed within a particular community. By ‘lived faith’ we are looking to move beyond a purely intellectual understanding of religion to see faith as something that not only affects the way each individual member of a religion lives out their faith, but also the way in which that living inevitably interacts with those who live around them.
Lived faith is probably best understood in relation to identity. It is that expression or practice of the faith that is most intimate and personal for each individual. It can be expressed in terms of a relationship, particular values, a series of practices, law or encapsulated in specific words and passages of scripture. To engage with lived faith at this level is to touch that which is most personal for the faithful individual, that which has evolved from childhood, or that which drew a specific person to the faith in the first place. It cannot always be expressed in words, and questions of memory, emotion and embodiment are essential to any expression of lived faith. It is also rarely something that is uniquely individual; a lived faith is shared, lived out within a community of faith, even if the different members of the community may not choose to express their faith in identical forms. The community of the faithful is clearly important, but in practice lived faith also engages with, and may even share values or practices with, those of other faith traditions who live close by creating particular synergies and tensions within the expression of the faith.
Post ‘Trojan Horse’: Whilst the ‘Trojan Horse’ episode has brought the way faith is expressed in schools to the fore, it is our contention that the beliefs and values that led to some of the issues (e.g. gender separation) are not limited to schools or to one community. Furthermore there are other issues that are more relevant to people from other faiths that can also lead to tensions or conflict between people. It is this underlying way that faith is lived that we want to discuss in these conversations rather than ‘Trojan Horse’ per se.

Whilst the process and selection of invitees might not be perfect we hope that it will serve as a useful group to tackle some of these important issues and be a model that can be repeated enabling different people to participate.

 

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