Huddled together, Muslims and Christians alike, in an attempt to protect our cardboard boxes from the rain, we welcomed to our corner of Shadwell, London the local councilor in charge of housing in our borough. Our team, Shadwell Citizens for Affordable Housing, had spent the entire morning collecting testimonies from passers-by expressing what sort of dignified homes they want in our neighborhood. Our goal was to present this to the councilor and get him, after months of back and forth, to finally publically support our efforts to get Community Land Trust homes built in Shadwell. I’m happy to report that he gave us the go ahead and promised to connect us to the greater London authorities for housing.
This is just one example of how interfaith collaboration is improving lives in East London. My name is Claire Moll, and I am an American Christian community organizer working in a small Anglo-Catholic parish in Shadwell, a neighborhood predominantly made up of Bengali Muslims who have lived in the area for generations located right at the fringes of the wealthy City of London. At St. George-in-the-East our mission statement is “Worshipping God, Welcoming our neighbours, and Challenging injustice.” We are driven by Jesus’ time spent on Earth sharing with the most vulnerable whilst all the while challenging the many power structures that ensured those people’s state of vulnerability. In all community initiatives run by the church, we have partnered with Muslim women who in tandem with members of our Church congregation lead our task groups. We believe that our Muslim brothers and sisters are as much a part of our community as any Christian-identifying person and that it is only when we are working together we may truly start to see deep change within our society.
This Ramadan, we will be staying out late with our Muslim neighbors as a sort of ad hoc community watch building relationships with many of the youth. This initiative started several years ago when Muslims expressed a sense of anxiety of having to walk to and from the mosque at such late hours in the summer nights. Members of our church and others decided that this was something with which we could help. The more people on the streets the less likely anti-social behavior will occur. Thus, ever since, teams of non-Muslims have joined those going to the mosque to break their fast to ensure their safety.
These cross-faith community initiatives are so integral right now in keeping a Brexit United Kingdom truly united. We are not a land of xenophobic bigots, but rather several communities attempting to defy the political powers that profit off our divisions by coming together to better our neighborhoods for everyone.
Claire Moll’s reflection comes to the Parliament of the World’s Religions as part of the 2017 Interfaith Ramadan series, empowering interfaith allies, Muslim and those of other spiritual and religious backgrounds from around the world, to share their stories of service, community and gratitude during the month of Ramadan. Please contact the Parliament at info@ParliamentOfReligions.org, or tag us at #RamadanPoWR to share your own story.
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