On the Monday of half term, twelve pre-teens ran around drizzly central London during an interfaith youth trip. Friendships were formed over table football, actual football and the shared experience of getting utterly soaked by unpredictable not-quite-spring weather. It started with seven Christian kids from London being introduced to five Muslim young people from Birmingham. The aim of the day was to help these young people start to build friendships with each other that are centred around honest dialogue about their faiths.
In the basement of the Church we played games and ate together. During one of our ice breaker games, whenever you heard the name of a character from your holy book you had to swap seats. It was great to see the youth discovering the overlap between their religions. Shortly after that we went underground to central London for the main challenge: a selfie scavenger hunt. In two teams (a good mix of Londoners and Brummies in each), they navigated around and took as many group selfies (or us-ies? Is that what the kids are saying?) with as many landmarks as possible. After a few hours of touristy fun we shot back over to Bethnal Green and consumed an unspeakable amount of pizza.
Before we ended the day we broke up into groups and they shared aspects of their faith with each other. When asked ‘what one thing do you want people to know about your faith?’, one girl expressed her frustration with the assumptions people make about Islam. She said that men and women in her faith aren’t kept apart as much as people assume. She said that she loves the times in her mosque when the whole community come together as one to worship God. The Londoners left the Church wishing that they had more time to spend with the other kids and there’s already talk of a trip to Birmingham and hey, maybe a residential. Everyone is really excited!
More important than the pizza and endless selfies was beginnings of new relationships formed between these young people of different backgrounds. We’ve started to create a space which gives them the chance to share their faith without fear of ridicule. I know for a fact that the London kids struggle to talk about Christianity and what it means to them with their Muslim friends from their schools and neighbourhoods. It was an incredible privilege to work alongside Christian and Muslim youth workers to help these young people to celebrate their faiths with each other.
– Guest Post by Christina Pope, Tower Hamlet Community Church Youth & Children’s Intern