Young people break down cultural barriers in Harehills
A group of Leeds teenagers have been experiencing cross-cultural mission in Harehills, a deprived area of the city and a predominantly Pakistani and Bangladeshi Muslim community, as one part of the HOPE Leeds 11 mission week.
"This was such an ideal opportunity for the young people to work together, be challenged to step out in mission, but most of all to learn about and engage with people from other cultures and faiths living just down the road." said Nic Sheppard, Youth Work Advisor for the Diocese of Ripon and Leeds.
The young people learned about the cultural backgrounds of some of the local people and went out on the streets to initiate friendly conversation. The aims of this activity were to demonstrate love for people and begin to break down a few cultural misconceptions and barriers.
Jade, 19, a participant from Woodlesford said: “I found it really hard to begin with, but once we had one good conversation it was actually alright. We asked them questions about their lives and I chatted with a woman who was telling me about the differences between living here and back home in Pakistan. She was a bit surprised we wanted to talk to her to begin with.”
Max, 17, from Holt Park challenged the negative stereotypes: “Harehills is definitely a m
isunderstood area of Leeds. It has a bad reputation as full of crime, and yeah there are bad parts and derelict houses etc, but everyone has been friendly and most were well up for a chat”
The climax of the week was Friday’s fun day in Banstead park for local children, in partnership with Kidz Klub Leeds, a citywide ministry who connect with children, provide saturday activities and support families in the tough inner city areas.
Nearly a hundred kids descended on the park eager to play giant jenga, get their face painted, make balloons, or take chocolate or sumo challenges. It was difficult to prize the people away at closing time. A number of the people, who had spoken to the team earlier in the week, brought their children along.
HOPE participants also visited a mosque, received cultural and biblical training and prayer-walked the streets. Training and leadership was provided by World Outreach workers James Price and a colleague who’s intentionally moved in to the area to develop ongoing relationships with the community.
Nathaniel, 16, from Adel, said of the experience: “It’s helpful having the information about the different cultures, why they might be here and what issues we need to be aware of - like a language barrier. It has been really useful for us, not just for Hope 11 but for our life.”
Nic Sheppard added: "HOPE missions are about changing communities and sharing love - this did happen - but the biggest change is in the young people themselves as they journey what they believe and work out what that means in practice. These few days can and do have major life-changing effects."
James Price, World Outreach Mission Mobiliser and co-ordinator of the project said: “HOPE Leeds was a fantastic opportunity for young people to develop their understanding of God's heart for the nations. You don't have to go overseas to reach the nations - the ends of the earth are living in our postcodes. The week was hands-on practical experience, demonstrating God's love for all people."
The Crossing Cultures project was one of
Hope Leeds 11’s five mission centres in different parts of the city. The Hope Leeds 11 mission week was based in Harehills Lane Baptist Church, as a hub. Each afternoon, the young volunteers, from a wide variety of backgrounds, denominations and church streams, were sent out to community projects in areas including Holbeck and Beeston, Armley, Kippax, and Meanwood.
HOPE Leeds are keen for all the projects not just to be a ‘one week wonder’. Ben Cordy, from the Youth Cell Network and one of the co-ordinators, said: “We work alongside the people of each immediate community and link into existing, sustainable projects that carry on after HOPE has finished. In this case, it is through local team members and the regularly accessible Kidz Klub. We just want to be a catalyst for community building and ongoing mission.”