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.”