​“Have the imagination to create communities of beauty”, Archbishop urges activists
24 February 2015 by Jessica Foster

​“Have the imagination to create communities of beauty”, Archbishop urges activists

“Have the imagination to create communities of beauty”, Archbishop urges activists at Interfaith Conference.

Archbishop Justin Welby gave the keynote address this morning to more than 150 people of faith drawn together from across Birmingham and the Black Country to reflect how they can tackle poverty in their communities together.

The gathering at Birchfield in Birmingham included people from the Muslim, Christian, Sikh, Hindu and Jewish faiths and was hosted by Near Neighbours – a Government-funded programme to encourage people from different traditions to make friends, deepen relationships and change their neighbourhoods together.

Other speakers at the conference included Nadeem Malik of the Sultan Bahu Trust, Shaz Manir from the Amirah Foundation, Fred Rattley from Thrive Together Birmingham and Dr Mohinder Singh from the Nishkam Civic Association. The Archbishop was introduced by the Bishop of Birmingham, the Rt Revd David Urquhart.

The aim of the conference was to introduce local people to each other with the hope that they will continue meeting after the conference and work together for the good of their areas. Guests at the conference spent much of the morning in conversation and reflection, aided by a graphic facilitator.

The Archbishop reminded the conference about the importance of working together for the good of the community even if there remain disagreements about faith – indeed, that learning to disagree together well is an important part of working together. He gave a global perspective on faiths working together to tackle poverty.

He talked about the astonishing example of Jean Vanier, the founder of L’Arche communities – communities for people with learning disabilities as well as for those without. “L’Arche is a reminder that the apparently ‘strong’ need the apparently ‘weak’. The weakness of the strong is that they do not know their need of those who appear weak.”

He spoke about the immense privilege of living in a time and place where people from many different faiths and cultures can come together in one room and urged participants to expand their horizons of what might be possible. Continuing on the theme of interdependence he concluded by asking: “Do we have the imagination to build communities of beauty that recognise the reality of the divine?”

Today, Near Neighbours is celebrating its 800th grant at a separate event in London. In Birmingham more than £600,000 has been distributed in small grants through Near Neighbours enabling thousands of friendships to be formed.

Near Neighbours Co-ordinator, Jessica Foster said: “Today has been a fantastic team effort by members of the Near Neighbours Advisory Board. We were delighted that many people had met new neighbours and had started to build local friendships. The commitment to working together and building trusting relationships was really exciting. The speakers today were inspiring and challenging and we were thrilled that Archbishop Justin was able to join us in the morning.”

(Photos by Rabiyah Latif)

Below is the Archbishop's Address:

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Photos by Rabiyah Latif