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posted by: Tom Godwin | on: Wednesday, 28 October 2015, 09:25
On the first Saturday of every month, the Meeting Room Café pops up in St Teilo’s Church in Cathays. Inspired by HOPE not hate’s Our Cup of Tea campaign, a group from the Dar Ul-Isra mosque decided to have their weekly meeting at the Meeting Room.
Like everyone who walks through the door, they were welcomed with open arms. And cake. Lots of cake.
Dar Ul Isra mosque is a two-minute walk away from St. Teilo’s. The site has an interesting history: once a church hall, it was bombed in the war, then rejuvenated by students in 1989, who bought the land and turned it into an Islamic Centre for prayer, study and community.
The Our Cup of Tea campaign is based on a simple idea. While extremists try to convince us that we are divided, the majority of us are basically having a cup of tea and getting on with things. For the congregation from Dar Ul-Isra, and the hard-working volunteers at The Meeting Room, it was an excuse to meet their neighbours.
Chat quickly sparked between the Muslim and Christian congregations at the Church about their shared history in the community. After some interesting discussion, Matthew from the church management team went rustling in the back room for a few minutes. He emerged a few minutes later with the original church hall plans dating to 1908, showing the Muslim congregation for the first time the full history of their Mosque.
It was a piece of shared history neither expected. Mohammed, who invited members of the mosque to the Church, quickly shared the find on the Our Cup of Tea facebook page.
“The whole group from Dar ul Isra were so excited by the find and it created a stronger connection with our Christian neighbours”, he said. “We are arranging another visit to go through the archives properly and also get a copy of the original 1908 plans to showcase in our foyer."
Amazing what a cup of tea can do. When organising a large voter registration campaign in Cardiff last year, both the mosque and the church acted as bases for HOPE not hate volunteers to meet for door knocking sessions and getting people registered in the local community. This was the first time the different congregations had had the chance for a sit down for a proper cuppa.
In the process it has led to a shared sense of history, a lasting link in the community and, hopefully, many more cups of tea.
Posted: 28 Oct 2015 | There are 0 comments | make a comment/view comments
posted by: Owen Jones | on: Friday, 23 October 2015, 09:51
Since the refugee crisis hit the headlines at the start of summer, we have sometimes focused too much on the negative reaction to the millions of suffering and vulnerable people fleeing war torn Syria.
Many mainstream media outlets are increasingly anti-migrant and spread false myths. The right wing groups use this as an opportunity to further spread their hatred and Islamophobia. Others use the crisis to increase fears over the EU. With all this happening everyday, it is easy to forget the warm and heartfelt reactions by many in this country to help those in most need.
On Thursday 8th October, HOPE not hate joined together with CAST (Communities and Sanctuary-Seekers Together) in Southend, who hosted a huge community meeting to discuss what can we do as a local community to help the Syrian refugees?
137 people crammed into Crowstone Church to hear responses from groups such as Christian Aid, Southend Cal Aid and a wide range of faith groups about the situation and the issues at hand as well as moving speeches by two former Zimbabwean refugees.
The projects being conducted by local groups set up in response to the crisis was astounding, with a team of carpenters going out to Calais to help build robust shelters for the refugees as the winter sets in, and all materials provided by locals from the Southend and Rochford areas.
HOPE not hate’s message was clear at the meeting. This needs to be a community wide campaign - we cannot relive the nasty tensions caused by the settlement of refugees in towns like Dudley, where communities that were unprepared for new migrants, resulting in often violent hostilities. We need to tackle the anti-migrant attitudes all too prevalent in Southend, often caused by ignorance and myths, to ensure that new refugees are not just jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire.
The mood in the room was very well summarised by the Rev. Melanie Smith, minister at Crowstone Church, who led the meeting, announcing that “Southend Council has offered to take ten refugees. I think there is perhaps some room to press the council that ten isn’t enough and that, as the people of Southend, we may want to press them to take more than ten individuals.” This received rightful applause.
Posted: 23 Oct 2015 | There are 0 comments | make a comment/view comments
posted by: Nick Spooner | on: Tuesday, 20 October 2015, 16:46
In late September, HOPE not hate was contacted by a supporter from the market town of Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire. The English Defence League (EDL) had called a march in Aylesbury, using the recent prosecution of six local Asian men for horrific child sex offences to stir up community division and hatred of Aylesbury’s Muslim community.
As so often in incidents like this, the EDL, and other far-right groups that exploit such an issue, fail to perceive that child sex offences are a cross-cultural crime, instead choosing to focus on the ethnicity of the perpetrators to further their discourse of hate.
Five years ago, an EDL march in Aylesbury led to public confrontations on the town’s cobbled streets: the majority involved were not even from the town. The overwhelming majority of Aylesbury were against this invasion by the EDL, and were concerned about potential conflict on their quiet streets.
How, then, could we turn this frustration into a productive force?
When these regrettable occasions arise, what’s absolutely vital is that local people feel empowered and know that by speaking out they can effect change. In the case of Aylesbury, we built support for a statement of HOPE on social media that enabled like-minded residents to unite under a peaceful and positive banner. This also created space for individuals to share ideas on a community response.
In conversations with residents, a strong image emerged: the swan. The symbol of Buckinghamshire would be the catalyst to unite the community and the Aylesbury origami swan was born!
The swan became a powerful symbol of a town peacefully uniting to isolate the EDL’s politics of hate. Not only did our leaflet contain information about a peaceful, community-led response to this provocation, it detailed instructions on how to turn that leaflet into an origami swan!
Across several leafletting sessions, local people answered the call to action. Some even went so far as to organise their own leafletting sessions. As a result 5,500 people were reached within a few days.
Using the hashtag #SwansForHOPE, we encouraged people to post pictures of their swans on social media. The movement quickly gathered momentum right up until the evening before the EDL march. On the Friday evening before, residents took the opportunity to form new relationships, create hundreds of origami swans and discuss who had the balance of power in Aylesbury.
In just under three weeks, Aylesbury residents were empowered, the narrative of the town shifted and hate was challenged to create community networks of HOPE.
Really though, the swan was merely a vehicle for the real achievements to be made: bringing people together to create a stronger community. None of this would have happened if it hadn’t been for those fantastic residents that made their voices heard in one way or another.
If and when hate rears its repugnant head again in Aylesbury, residents are empowered and provided with the skills necessary to organise a response, rendering any future racist raids futile.
Hate came to town in Aylesbury, but HOPE certainly prevailed.
Posted: 20 Oct 2015 | There are 0 comments | make a comment/view comments