Published on March 12, 2014
“Meeting the Catalyst group during a visit to London was both stimulating and great fun. After a tour of the House of Lords we had a lively debate about Parliamentary democracy and the role of faith in politics. ! Birmingham has had a long tradition of excellence in inter-faith relations. Now a new generation of young women and men is going further, not only in appreciating our different traditions but also making lasting friendships across cultures, ethnicity and religion. Through vigorous debate and adventure beyond normal comfort zones, Catalyst models unity in diversity.
Meeting young people working together, with their respective Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish and Sikh beliefs, gives me hope for the future of a dynamic, flourishing and faithful 21st century city region. I trust that this Catalyst program will spread widely in the UK and beyond.“ ! Rt Revd David Urquhart Bishop of Birmingham !3
The Catalyst programme is very significant for a city like Birmingham. There are many good leadership courses available but what Catalyst offers is an understanding of leadership from a faith perspective in an interfaith context. The course is for young leaders of faith who want to develop their leadership skills but to also think about what it means to be a leader in a city of many faiths. Catalyst aims to develop leadership skill and attitudes across a range of topics. Whilst these include the practical for example risk assessment, safeguarding and basic budgeting, it also includes personal development by considering how personality affects leadership and team dynamics. The course draws on the expertise of people in Birmingham to look at topics such as conflict resolution, leading under pressure and faith and politics. Through these sessions the participants learn to lead diverse teams and to reflect on leadership in widely different contexts. The course uses a range of teaching styles to reinforce teaching and to engage with those who relate to different learning styles. Whilst there have been lectures and workshops the course is also immensely practical. The team are regularly set challenges which test their leadership and provide opportunity to reflect on what they have learnt and how they are developing. These challenges range from the relatively simple: for example preparing refreshments to the more complex such as planning and running a guided tour. The course also includes a residential trip where participants spend four days together which this year took place in London and included visits to the House of Lords and Tate Modern.
During the course the participants are encouraged to reflect on their how their own faith can inspire leadership and to engage seriously with the beliefs and attitudes of others. We are convinced that being a leader of faith, whether that’s leading in a place of worship, business, charity or the public sector; one needs to understand the hopes and concerns of others but also to be able to build positive w o r k i n g r e l a t i o n s h i p s a n d friendships with people of all faiths and none.
One key element to the project is that the group have to run a ‘Near Neighbours’ event. This requires them to plan an event that brings together people of different faiths, apply for the funding and run it with minimum input from the course leaders. This requires the group to apply all the skill gained during Catalyst and to work closely with people they have only recently met. It also allows them to gain experience of applying for grants and being accountable to outside agencies.
Social Action Projects Case Study: Team Synergy ! The interfaith event at Nishkam Primary School was successful in bringing students from both the Christian and Sikh faith together and engaging them in interfaith and civic dialogue. ! The day was run by volunteers with varied expertise in youth work and event co-ordination, giving us a firm understanding of the requirements of the schools and what we could expect from the students. The team, which came to be known as Synergy, consisted of: Melissa Grennan, a 23 year old who has many years experience working at a Day Nursery; Faraz Ahmed, a 23 year old dispenser, who has volunteered with the Feast, an organisation that focuses on interfaith dialogue between Muslims and Christians under the age of 16; Kirat Raj Singh, a 23 year old student activist who is very active within Student politics and has organised youth events in the UK and abroad; and Munpreet Kaur Flora, a 22 year old student who has experience teaching children aged 1-18, both within school and supplementary education. All were part of the Catalyst Interfaith Leaders course, who led on the planning and delivery. ! Students were engaged in icebreakers, two workshops and a plenary. The icebreakers, led by Munpreet, allowed the students to introduce themselves and through the exercise “human bingo”, gave them the opportunity to learn facts about one another. ! !
Social Action Projects Case Study: Team Synergy ! The faith-based workshop, run by Faraz, gave students the opportunity to discuss faith-led social action. Students read a Christian and Sikh story and discussed ideas relating to social freedom, support the needy and justice. The activity helped students think about how social change is possible and the qualities needed to make it happen. ! The community-based workshop, run by Melissa, gave students the opportunity to role-play as different members of a community to tackle a basic social problem. This creative activity excited the children and allowed them to recognise ways in which they themselves could contribute to social change. The workshops complimented each other as they gave the students a chance to think about the role of faith in society in both traditional and modern day terms. ! In the closing plenary, Kirat shared a story with the children and asked them to reflect on the day. The moral of the story reminded them that they could learn from everything around them and to continue the learning experience outside the classroom. ! ! !
The students expressed enthusiasm and enjoyment throughout the morning, building friendships and learning about each other. They all stated how much they would love to take part in similar sessions in the future. Overall the day was a success and we hope to repeat it in the future with more students, so that students will become f a m i l i a r w i t h i n t e r f a i t h dialogue from a young age.
! The second year of the programme developed these ideas and took a second generation of leaders on a journey which explored their interfaith journey, whilst looking more deeply into sustainable social change through their projects. ! Collaboration, sustainability and looking at innovative impact have been at the core of project design. The 2013 / 2014 cohort are now about to prototype a community growing / aquaponics civic project. ! The presents an exciting new horizon for citizen driven innovation as the strong interfaith relationships bring a whole new dimension to their local impact. In addition an new era of interfaith work that looks to creative collaborative change that is sustainable in the community. ! Keep following @CatalystBham or www.facebook.com/CatalystBirmingham for updates on the progress of our second cohort.
What were your experiences and percep3ons of interfaith work before joining Catalyst and what a;racted you to the Catalyst Course. My main percep3on about interfaith was that for some it may mean agreeing on things that they may not agree with, in order to simply work with someone from another faith. This for me would therefore not cons3tute interfaith work. In all honesty the a;rac3on of Catalyst was a recommenda3on from (now) a friend. ! What were the challenges and triumphs in terms of dialogue and interac3ons with those of other faiths before the course and during the course? The biggest challenge for me was saying things openly without feeling like I would oﬀend others but also remain honest to my interpreta3on of the Sikh philosophy. Another challenge for me was making sense of other Sikh views that diﬀered to my own. GeJng over this and being able to share things and have such a open environment was also the me the biggest triumphs. Another Triumph was also the gay marriage discussion that seemed to go over two days at the residen3al. Another highlight for me, was as part of this discussion one of the Catalyst members, stood up and openly shared her view with everyone. Despite this view possibly being seen as a nega3ve and in some instances an narrow minded one. Being able to feel that comfortable to speak freely I felt was also a big triumph. I also feel it was at this point I personally felt that I could also be a lot more open in front of the whole group. Prior to the Catalyst I have worked very closely with a group of Chris3ans which has been at 3mes challenging when talking about my own faith. However also provided me with a plaOorm to be able to explore diﬀerent views and opinions, not to men3on develop some very good friendships, the result of which leading to me being part of the Catalyst course. ! Could you give some examples / stories of challenging or enlightening conversa3ons you had during the course? I had a conversa3on with a Muslim girl at the course about why she does diﬀerent things like the performing of and the meanings behind prayer and also the reason for wearing a headscarf. This gave me a new insight and a be;er understanding to some of the Muslim religious tradi3ons. Before this I had not really had a deep but also, open conversa3on with someone from the Islamic faith. Another enlightening conversa3on was with Andrew and his wife. We were able to share thoughts and ideas about both our faith and community along with sharing success stories and things we would like to work on within the community. During the conversa3on I learnt a lot about myself and had ‘that penny dropping moment’. Some of the comments of this stuck with and ended up being something that I con3nued to explore both within myself and with others for a long 3me aSer the conversa3on. What are the main things you learnt during the course / what are the main stereotypes that were challenged for you? I learnt how to work with a range of diﬀerent people, who have very dis3nc3vely diﬀerent styles and personali3es. This was at 3mes a challenge as we wanted to both achieve the aims of event, but also allow people to develop their own personal aims, for example speaking to large groups of people. ! What are the interfaith / faith challenges you iden3fy within your community? Being from the Sikh community the biggest challenge I ﬁnd Sikhs deal with is their rela3onship with Muslims. A rela3onship which is, in my opinion, a dysfunc3onal one paired with nega3ve aJtudes, feelings and percep3ons, in turn breeding more problems. Another big problem amongst all Sikhs, including Amritdhari Sikhs (despite being very an3-‐sikh philosophy) is that of discrimina3on and judgment towards others. Such quali3es that are far from the essence of the Sikh faith. I feel this internal problem, stemming from caste as a basis. Therefore closing doors for people and dividing the community. ! What kinds of things did you learn from your event, what was your event about, what did it achieve? Our event started oﬀ with everyone agreeing that we wanted to do something that when implemented would be self-‐sustainable, rather than a one oﬀ event. We decided that the best thing we could give to people was to share what we learnt over the several months of the course. So we decided to pick out the things we found most useful to know, have, when puJng together an event. We delivered a basic course, explaining our idea of leadership, how we could tackle problems and develop our communi3es and how ’near neighbours’ would be able to support us, in achieving these goals. We had around 15 people a;ending the event, all of whom by the end of the day had some good food, made some new friends and put together their own near neighbours grant applica3on in order to get their own projects implemented. We hoped that this would ‘catalyst’ out into a range of more projects in the wider community of Birmingham but also more people with the skills we learnt during the Catalyst course to share with others. ! What value do you personally feel interfaith leadership will add to the city of Birmingham? I feel that although Birmingham has a very diverse popula3on I do not think by any means it is mul3-‐cultural. I feel that Birmingham is a city with very dis3nct areas, with diﬀerent concentrated communi3es, pockets of people in diﬀerent areas. I feel that this adds to diﬀerent problems in the community. I feel that more interfaith work and community cohesion based projects would be invaluable to the city of Birmingham, in order to bring a range of the people not only together, but also improve diﬀerent peoples understanding of one and another. Interview with Parmeash Kaur CATALYST COHORT 2012 / 2013
THE OPPORTUNITY! Birmingham is a super diverse city with a patchwork of communities from different faiths, cultures, economic and social backgrounds. Birmingham’s diverse and constantly changing population is just over one million residents, with over half of people under 35. 32.4% of the population of the city is aged between 15 and 34 compared to 26.3% of the UK. ! 78% of people within Birmingham identify with a recognised religion. The religion of the majority is Christianity. However the religions which are identified with by residents in Birmingham further reflect the diverse nature of the city. ! With the changing demographic landscape of a super diverse and young Birmingham it is crucial that we have the right future leaders who will understand and respond to the challenges and opportunities that will take Birmingham forward. Therefore, we believe that a prosperous, democratic & fair city will need leaders that reflect the diversity of the city, who understand the city and who innovatively create solutions to our most entrenched social issues. ! We believe that faith based and interfaith leadership training should be co designed and delivered by those who speak from lived experience from across the city and Catalyst Interfaith Leaders represent the foundation for creative interfaith work in the city. To collaborate with the group for future leadership training or community based initiatives please email email@example.com.
Informed with the help Catalyst 2012 - 2014 cohort members, the director of Interfaith Relations to the Bishop of Birmingham Dr. Andrew Smith, Course co - lead Immy Kaur & Rt Revd David Urquhart, Bishop of Birmingham. ! Graphics: Claire Hartley ! Text copyright: Catalyst Interfaith Leaders Image copyright: Catalyst Interfaith Leaders Illustrations copyright: Claire Hartley ! Made in Birmingham ! Twitter: @CatalystBham www.facebook.com/CatalystBirmingham ! Date Published: February 2014 License This document is published and shared under a creative commons license: you are free to edit, copy, distribute and remix, providing you attribute the authors and re-share under the same license.
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