Tag: Youth

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

 

A Visit from Lutheran Pastors from Dresden

In June we were honoured to be visited by a group of twenty Lutheran Church Leaders from Dresden in Germany. They came to Birmingham to learn about interfaith work and the way that Churches relate to people of different faiths and especially Muslims. Dresden has very few people of different faiths living there, but there is fear particularly against a perceived ‘Islamisation’ of Germany. The far right group Pegida was founded in Dresden and holds regular rallies there. The Pastors who came to Birmingham were keen to learn how to help their congregations overcome this fear and offer a genuine welcome to Muslim neighbours.

During their visit we were able to introduce them to a number of innovative ways that the church is reaching out in friendship and gave them the opportunity to visit different places of worship.

On the first day they came to the Faithful Neighbourhoods Centre and then walked along the Stratford Road to visit St. John’s Church and the Narthex project. They heard from Rev John Self about the wide range of services that Narthex offers and how the church is seen as part of the community rather than a service provider doing this to people.

Over lunch, from the brilliant Suraj Sweet Centre, they heard from Jessica Foster about the Near Neighbours programme and how it has helped different faith communities meet and work together to improve their local areas.

The afternoon gave them the opportunity to hear from Rev Tom Thomas about St. Christopher’s Church and the Springfield Project. This also gave them an opportunity to reflect on the joys and challenges of being a church leader in a majority Muslim parish. The afternoon concluded with a visit to the Jamatia Islamic Centre where they had a chance to meet some of the committee and to ask the Imam questions about the workings of the Mosque and life as a Muslim in Birmingham.

The second day started with a chance to hear about the work of The Feast and to ask questions about youth work, dialogue and evangelism. Lunch time was spent at the Ramgarhia Gudwara in Birmingham where we had an introduction to Sikhism and fantastic lunch in the Langar Kitchen. The visit concluded with a visit to the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery Faith Gallery where they saw artefacts and exhibits that reflected the breadth of religious life in Birmingham.

They went away with much to reflect on for their own ministry and having had their eyes opened to the potential for Christian ministry in a multi-faith city. They also had opportunity to visit places of worship and meet people of faiths that they hadn’t had chance to meet before.

If you would like to have this kind of experience for a group, it is something that we can offer from time to time. If you would like to talk to someone about this possibility please contact Canon Dr Andrew Smith, Director of Interfaith Relations Andrews@cofebirmingham.com

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Mystery Mission Trip Lands at the FNC

For three days in July the FNC became home for 20 young people and leaders from Knowle Parish Church. They eat, worshipped, and even slept at the FNC which they even found to be quite comfortable! However this wasn’t just a luxury city break they were here as part of their church’s annual mission trip for young people. So whilst they were with us they went litter picking with the Balsall Heath Forum, helped out at the Sultan Bahu Trust, Got involved with The Feast, did gardening at The Springfield Centre and helped at the Narthex Food Bank.

As well as all this activity they visited shops on the Stratford Road, had a tour of the Hamza Masjid and were there for Iftar and had a delicious meal at Hajees Restaurant.

Although Sparkhill is only 15 minutes away from Knowle, it’s a different world, one which many of the young people had never visited. However, they got stuck into the work and were enthusiastic and hardworking volunteers.

 

Learning About Love

In May 2014 the local organisation, Connect Justice, released a groundbreaking report called Learning About Love: Developing Interfaith Approaches to Promoting Healthy Relationships.  The Near Neighbour’s funded study carried out by Dr. Laura Zahra McDonald and Zubeda Limbada explored what healthy and unhealthy relationships mean in the context of faith, culture, gender and identity for Christian, Muslim and Sikh participants. Six young males, six young females and a mixed group of six parents were consulted in three-hour workshops in three separate sessions to enable honest views and dialogue to be shared. Each of the three groups had equal representation from the three faith groups. The cultural and ethnic heritage of the participants – reflective of Birmingham as a diverse city – included Somali, Black African, white British, African Caribbean, white American, Pakistani, and Indian.

Rather than focusing on the extremes, the researchers wanted to understand how might we better understand the challenges facing all of us, whether young women, young men, parents, family members or as wider community members? Are there different challenges governed by our diversities, including gender, faith, culture or age? How can we resist the tide, and learn about love? For this study, the question posed was ‘How might we as a society better promote healthy relationships’ which reflected the need for a positive, pro-active response.

You can read a copy of the report here.

Catalyst Team Synergy Video

In early 2013 the Catalyst group were split into three teams and each was challenged to run a Near Neighbours event. Each event was different effective and exciting. One group ran an art event, another trained local leaders in how to apply for Near Neighbours funding and the third, Team Synergy, ran a morning for children from two primary schools, one Catholic and one Sikh. They produced the following video which captures the fun and significance of the morning for the pupils.

 

Young People Meet Birmingham Faith Leaders

How do we inspire a new generation of young people to take their faith and the faiths of others seriously? In June Andrew Smith went with the Birmingham Faith Leader’s Group for their annual day away. The main part of the day was a meeting between the Faith Leaders and pupils from Hagley Catholic High School Sixth Form. After eating lunch together there was a chance for the pupils to ask the faith leaders questions around the theme of ‘Views on life after death’. The questions were probing and insightful and opened up some lively discussion amongst the faith leaders. Because of their good relationships and willingness to enter into honest and robust dialogue the pupils experienced a healthy discussion where people didn’t agree but were able to talk honestly about their views. The frankness of the pupil’s questions was refreshing and opened up topics that weren’t planned for but which gave space for good discussion.

 

The young people gave their assessment of the day:

“The day Hagley Catholic Sixth Form met the Birmingham Faith Leaders Group by John Horton, Amy Price, and Laura Kirton. On the 24th of June members of the Hagley Catholic High School Sixth Form met with the Birmingham Faith Leaders group at Harvington Hall. The day began with the Sixth Form being introduced to the different representatives of each faith and the collective group were told what the schedule for the rest of the afternoon was. After the introductions were over we all gathered together in the dining room for a delicious vegetarian meal to suit all religious values. After our lovely meal we started the tour of the hall. The guide showed us a few of the priest holes made by Saint Nicholas Owen, our patron saint. One of our students even got the chance to try out one of the priest holes, much to the religious leader’s amusement. We had the experience of going into the Harvington hall chapel and were told about the difficulties of being a Catholic priest during this time period, certain details such as the position of the windows so that anyone trying to have a secret mass would be able to see the soldiers coming. This then led the guide to show us a secret compartment under the floorboards to hide all the priest’s religious belongings which was fascinating. One of the more interesting priest holes was located under the grand staircase when you lift up a few of the steps and more than a few students were shocked to see a mannequin looking back at them from the hiding place. Post-tour we gathered in the Great Chamber for our question and answer session with the faith leaders. There were representatives of several different faiths including Sikh, Buddhist, Muslim, Christianity and Judaism. This gave us a real chance to gain an insight into each of the individual faiths and their beliefs. In particular we talked about the issues of life after death from each religions’ perspective and we also enjoyed a discussion about conversion and proselytization, which was very insightful. Overall it was a very fulfilling experience for all of the students and it was a once in a lifetime opportunity to be in a room with so many different faiths co-operating together, speaking openly with each other. The culture of respect and sharing of beliefs was very much appreciated by us and one that we are keen to pursue in the future. It really inspired us as a Sixth form to see such good being done by such a diverse group and we would like to thank the Birmingham faith leaders group for this amazing experience that we will never forget, and we hope this opportunity arises again for us and others around the county.”

 

The Gift of Giving and Friendship

Today two young men from The Feast project Y4M (Youth for Moseley) visited the Sparkhill food bank for a behind-the-scenes look at what happens to food once it’s donated.

These young men from Moseley School, one Christian and one Muslim, joined forces to make a video encouraging others from their school to take part in a food drive that will start soon.

Not only were these two representing the Y4M after school club, but they were also representing their faith and looking at how they could work together to tackle poverty.

When asked why they were willing to give up a day of their holiday to help out they said:

“It’s important because not only is it written in the Qur’an, but it nourishes your own soul, knowing that you are making a difference. When you give, it removes your own selfishness.” said Bilal.

“I like helping people. I was always taught to respect people and the Bible says to do for others what I’d like them to do for me. It’s part of who I am. Being Tswana (from Botswana) that’s how we’re grounded – you just know someday, someone will need to help you.” Mandla said.

These young men have also become pretty good friends in the short space of time they’ve known each other. Having met in the after-school club (Y4M) just 3 weeks ago, they spent most of the journey to and from the food bank talking about their faith and their beliefs. It was so encouraging to hear them speak so positively about each others faith and to have them both speak so passionately about recent events in the media.

When reflecting on their day, Bilal said: “It’s kinda cool when a non-Muslim defends a Muslim because it shows the brotherhood between them. It touched me when Mandla said he knew that all Muslims aren’t like how the media negatively represents us at times.”

“Bilal called me a friend and a good guy – that’s something I don’t get every day, especially from a Muslim. It made me feel quite good about myself and about how other people from a different religion can still view me an appreciate me.” said Mandla.

Today I thought we were simply going to a food bank to see how food is collected, stored and distributed. What I witnessed, however, was a marvellous gift of friendship, exchanged between two young men of different cultures and different faiths.

The Feast join the team at the FNC

We’re delighted that at the start of May the local charity The Feast moved into the FNC. The Feast is a local Christian charity that works to build relationships between Christian and Muslim teenagers.

The Feast is all about…
•Exploring faith: young people are encouraged and equipped to discuss their faith in ways which draw out both the similarities and differences between them.

•Creating friendships: by bringing together young people in a positive and fun environment we provide the opportunities for them to get to know one another, work on projects together and build on-going friendship built on trust and respect.

•Changing lives: having been to events run by The Feast the young people are challenged and enabled to live out the lessons they have learnt in their everyday lives amongst their friends, family and the wider community.

Their work fits with the three strands of work that we undertake here at the FNC namely: Tackling Poverty, Engaging with Other Faiths and  Transforming Communities.

Do look out for news of what The Feast are up to or visit their website and facebook page for regular updates.

Graduates plan for the Future

On the 11th May the Catalyst course came to an end. The day finished with a graduation meal at Al-Faisal’s restaurant in Birmingham. About 50 guests attended and heard about what had happened on the course and the impact it had on the group members.

The evening concluded with the members being awarded a certificate and being presented with a personalised Catalyst hoodie. Major Sam Edgar from the Salvation Army and Rabbi Margaret Jacobs were representing the Birmingham Faith Leaders Group and handed out the certificates and hoodies.

During the evening the group explained that they are intended to continue meeting as a younger faith leaders group. Plans are well underway for their first meetings and updates on how to keep up with their progress will be coming soon.

Can God be your Best Friend?

This was one of the questions that came out of our discussions at the second Catalyst day in December. The participants were asked to describe God in juts a few sentences and then to look at what other people had written. If they warmed to that description of God they put a tick. If they didn’t really understand what was written they put a question mark. If they didn’t describe God in that way they put a dot. One phrase that got an almost equal number of ticks and dots (but no question marks) was ‘My Best Friend’. For some this felt comforting, for others it was too informal and reduced God to our level.

Munpreet, who wrote the comment, has written a thoughtful blog post on why she wanted to describe God as her best friend. It’s well worth taking the time to read.

So what do you think? Too informal, an intimate and profound insight? And how might you describe God in just a few sentences?

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