We live in a part of Leeds which abounds with people of many different cultures. There is a large, growing, settled community of Pakistani Muslims who live in a geographical area bounded by some key thoroughfares.
Most of the previous occupants have moved out of the area, but there are still a few left from the “old days”, many of whom live happily side by side with those more recently arrived. One of our friends is an old lady who has lived in the same house all her life. She loves having Pakistani neighbours, and they all love her too, and are very attentive to her needs as she gets increasingly less mobile.
The bombings of July 2007 were keenly felt here as some of the bombers lived in the area, but there was a great sense of solidarity amongst the varied ethnic and faith groups which was of enormous moral support to all. Afterwards, this tulip tree was planted symbolically in the local park, as a sign of the hope and peace that so many people here are trying to build.
The area is dominated by a very large, Anglican church, the oldest in LS11. Next door to it there was also a very large Methodist church. There is a long tradition in both of these churches of seeking to build bridges with the Muslim community. To help this, the Methodists, who were becoming a very small congregation, allowed “Hamara”, a community centre for the Pakistani community to be built on part of the property. Not being a Mosque there are many activities in which the women can take part, and it is a very successful enterprise in this part of Leeds. Similarly the Anglican church allowed “Building Blocks” Nursery and crèche to be built on part of their property, and this enables the Pakistani, and other, women (especially the younger ones) to follow courses and seek employment. The Methodists, and many African faith groups, use it for Sunday worship too.
In addition there is a Kashmiri mosque nearby which frequently invites us to talks, and celebrations, especially joint celebrations of Eid and Christmas. A little further afield, the Sikh temple (housed in a former Rington’s tea factory!) continually offers food and hospitality to whoever comes through their doors.
The Anglican church, Kashmiri Mosque, and Sikh temple frequently collaborate in offering a Faith trail, entitled “Treasures revealed” - a pilgrimage to each of the places of worship to introduce people to the different faiths.
The two of us in this community, being in the “elderly-ing” stage of life, do not participate in the organisation of any of these activities, but we try to support them with our presence, and to be friendly and neighbourly. We do both have individual ministries which are also opportunities for Intercultural dialogue, as we work to support Asylum Seekers/Refugees who have come to live in Leeds.
It is a privilege to live in such a diverse neighbourhood, and to come to know that the common humanity we share is positive and up-building, enabling us to work at building small bridges of respect, understanding and appreciation.
A few years ago there was a meeting convoked by Leeds Diocese to consider the Bishops' statement “Finding God in Friend and Stranger
.” There was some very inspiring and interesting input by a variety of speakers of different faith communities, showing what is happening in across Yorkshire, and much talk about doing more. We are looking forward to seeing how this will take shape.