Bridging cultures in Birmingham
A HOPE project has been building bridges between cultures in central Birmingham. Young people from several local churches have been getting to know their Muslim neighbours, learning about other cultures and reaching out in social action in Sparkbrook and Balsall Heath, multicultural areas just a few miles south of Birmingham city centre.
The HOPE Twenty11 project, based in Sparkbrook, ran the second Bridging Cultures from the 20-22 July, a three-day cross-cultural experience involved co-ordinating sports activities, running community cafés, cooking cultural dishes, visiting a mosque and serving the community in practical ways.
Roger Lynch, community outreach worker from Riverside Church, said: "We are building on relationships cultivated over the last four years and serving others in a public place opens up all sorts of opportunities for further conversations and new relationships. Some of the young people had little experience of these cultures but they really developed a clearer understanding of what cross-cultural mission means."
"We love with Christ's love - unaffected by differences in culture, ethnic background and religious persuasion. HOPE has provided us with the banner we need to form a more joined-up approach to local mission and we have got a broader base of churches involved this time."
Last year, the group held a pilot and one of the social action projects included clearing the grounds of the nearby Mosque, coming about quite spontaneously out of Muslim/Christian relationships.
In 2011, the young volunteers heard from guest speakers from different backgrounds, including from a converted Sikh who shared honestly about how he keeps inter-cultural relationships good. A missionary who had spent time doing outreach in Morrocco spoke about parallels with sharing and demonstrating faith there and how they should be doing it in Birmingham. Talking about both as equally valid forms of mission.
Roger continued: "The cultural learning experience goes surprisingly deep and it can be quite intense so we have provided more space, this year, for the participants to reflect and process what they are experiencing ."
The group of churches have been encouraged to see positive results from outreach to their community, inspiring them to continue developing long-term relationships with people of other faiths living in the same area.