by Julia Duke-Vinton
During Love Your Neighbour Week (November 13-20), Birmingham communities focus on working together against hate, discrimination and violence. The week started with free chocolate and flowers given on the city streets to passers by.
With the rise in hate crimes over the last year, local religious groups chose to show their support and solidarity for each other. According to government reports, 4,400 religious incidents occurred between April 2015 and March 2016.
Shahin Ashraf (photo right), University of Birmingham Muslim Chaplain and Spokesperson for the Muslim Women’s Network, says:
“Love Your Neighbour Week allows for individuals who don’t normally speak to each other to do that. We have more in common than the things that divide us.”
In regards to the rise in number of religious hate crimes, she comments:
“I haven’t felt anything negative, but the narrative being channelled in the media has created a climate of hate.”
Ashraf and other chaplains stress on how important interfaith work and dialogue are in the current context.
At St. Chad’s Sanctuary, supporting asylum seekers and refugees, Sister Margaret remarks the ill effect of Brexit. She says:
“Brexit was a huge shock to many of us. People feel it is more acceptable now to be open about their dislike of migrants or strangers. It hasn’t happened often, but there have been occasions when people come to give help not knowing that our project helps asylum seekers. Then when they realise, they withdraw.”
Sister Margaret also points out on how coordinated efforts by religious organisations aim at making Birmingham a “kinder and more welcoming place”.