Catalyst Interfaith Leaders 2012 - 2014

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Information about Catalyst Interfaith Leaders 2012 - 2014

Published on March 12, 2014

Author: imandeepkaur



A look at Catalyst 2012 - 2014 - two years of seeding creative interfaith leadership in the city of Birmingham

“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 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

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 ! 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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