The Bishop of Wolverhamptons pastoral letter for June 2018
I have been spending time going to junior schools with my friend Imam Rashid. We do assemblies dedicated to promoting the common bonds between our faith traditions. Hopefully we are a visual symbol of how respect and affection can exist between committed people of different faiths. Invariably, in Wolverhampton, it feels as if we are preaching to the converted, as we address schools brimming with ethnic and religious diversity. And the questions the young children ask are always curious or sympathetic, never hostile.
I always leave these assemblies filled with hope for the future of multi-cultural Britain, believing that we have the possibility of creating a wonderfully diverse society based on our traditional British values of tolerance and fairness. But I am not nave enough to pretend that we have not still a long way to go. During the last year I have spoken out against racism and far right extremism on a couple of occasions, and while the angry emails and letters I have received as a result have been small in number, I know they are representative of a bigger minority who would share similar views. What my correspondents have in common are views which reflect a mixture of fear and ignorance concerning people of different races or faiths.
I rather wish that I could have taken them to the Molineaux, Wolves football stadium, for the last home game of the season, to witness the celebrations as the Championship Trophy was presented. There we were 30,000 fans, singing and waving our flags, all sharing in the joy of our teams achievement and the pride it has brought to our City. And as I looked round I could see people of many different races, all ages, all experiencing exactly the same emotions and joined together by a common bond.
It will be the same when England play in the World Cup later this month. In clubs and bars and in front of giant TV screens, the same scenes will be played out as people from every religion and background, find themselves cheering the same team for the same reason, and sharing triumph and disaster together.
And when we come to mark Remembrance Day, the tone and atmosphere will be very different but the diversity of those coming together will be just as great. As it should be of course, not only reflecting the multi-cultural Britain of today, but also the fact that countless people of different races and religions fought for this country, at home and most particularly abroad, during both World Wars.
My hope is that such shared experiences may cause those of us not fortunate enough to be immersed in the world of the City Junior School, where religious and racial differences are all but invisible, to reflect on whether our common humanity is not a God-given tie that binds us together? And if we only took that more seriously we could use it as a safe place from which to explore our differences.
+Clive Wulfrun June 2018
Picture: Imam Rashid, children from St Mark's & St Chad's CE Primary School and Bishop Clive as featured in January's Spotlight magazine.