An inner city church and mosque have reached out to each other in a special project which has seen bridges built between two religions.
The first event, between the All Saints church in Herbert Road and Hussainia mosque which is round the corner on Regents Park, Small Heath.
After little contact between the two communities, a first interfaith event has been held in a bid to combat ‘negativity’ and build bridges.
Uzma Ali, one of the heads of the mosque’s youth council, describes the interfaith event as “just that, tackling negativity we see in the media by working together on a local level to build understanding and community cohesion”.
She explained: “We had over 30 non-Muslims enter our mosque, that’s just beautiful. It wasn’t about preaching or converting, it was about creating opportunities to learn and understand one another, and i guess by doing that we are naturally tackling Islamaphobia.”
The organisers held a two part event, where Muslim communities were invited to the church for a service, and tour, followed by a Q&A over tea and biscuits.
One member of the local mosque, Lubna Suleman describes the church tour: “Going to the church was a great experience as we got to see the way the Christians carry out their sermons and I noticed quite a few things were similar to what Muslims believe which shows how closely related both our religions are.
“The interfaith mosque visit was amazing because there was Christians and Muslims of Shia and Sunni sitting together, learning about our differences, talking to each other, eating cake and drinking tea together”.
The group learned about how the church during World War Two was hit by bombs which cratered the ground, which is still visible today.
In the second half of the event, It was the mosque’s turn to welcome members of the church and wider community inside, and started off the evening with a lecture about Islam. This was followed by a tour of the huge building and finished with cakes, tea and question and answers and opportunity for people to try on a hijab.
Athitaya Chemnan, a student at Birmingham City University (BCU) said the experience opened her eyes to a new aspect of life and belief: “the opportunity of visiting has given me a better understanding of Islam, and their history and ideology of religion especially about respecting woman and their dressing”. This event demonstrates how faith can be a powerful symbol for unity, rather than division.”
Some women were keen to try on a hijab. Everyone at the event was given a rose with an inspirational quote attached.
Kathryn Smithson, a student at the University of Birmingham said: “Through the interfaith event I was finally able to see that in fact Islam’s main message is peace. Through the event I was able to look past the media portrayals of people and understand them for who they truly are.”
There are plans for increased collaborations, including a recent car wash fundraiser that raised over £200 for both Christians and Muslims fleeing violence in Iraq.