To celebrate Interfaith Week, young people from different religions across Cardiff were invited to an event exploring what it meant to be a young person of faith in the city today.
It was held in Cardiff Bay – once known the world over as Tiger Bay, one of the most multicultural and multi-religious communities in the country and where different cultures and religions still sit side by side.
The event was organised by the South Cardiff Interfaith Network in collaboration with Wales Millennium Centre’s Tiger Bay Presents, a fringe festival programme celebrating the city’s most multicultural corner. It took place on Sunday evening (November 12).
Here Father Dean Atkins, chair of the South Cardiff Interfaith Network, describes what happened:
It’s the eve of Tiger Bay the Musical which will be let loose for the first time at Wales Millennium Centre on Monday night. Tonight we take to a quieter room in the building, two flights up. It is dark now, and a few stray people are drawn inside to the soft glow of the foyer. From the balcony, I try to work out which people have arrived for our event, and which ones are simply inquisitive tourists, discovering the sites, finding out what’s on.
Young, Free and Religious is an event arranged by South Cardiff Interfaith Network to kick off Interfaith Week but we are also working in collaboration with WMC’s Tiger Bay Presents, a series of fringe celebrations standing tall on the back of Butetown’s multicultural heritage. But we have no idea who will really be here tonight.
A few weeks ago, I had met with a group of young Hindus and Muslims. Interestingly, up until then, they were the only two religious groups successfully represented by young people, but together we began to shape the event, and they took up the challenge of preparing and recording a few podcasts about their faith which we hope to use this evening before we broadcast them elsewhere.
First to arrive this evening is a trio of Buddhists, one of whom had sent me a text message only last night to ask if she could bring her guitar to sing – a song of creation, a common humanity. Hot on their heels are two young women of the Bahai faith, eager to set out their table-top display. I had communicated with them only by email, so I am relieved to see them here. And then a large, colourfully dressed group of Hindu young people arrive, followed by the Muslim lads – cutting it fine at 6pm – but by this time the room has filled and continues to fill. A Greek Orthodox Christian stands alongside a member of the Evangelical Alliance. A Mormon talks to a Muslim. A quick head count of eighty – and then we’re off!
We invite people to engage with the ‘Human Library’, to talk with some of the young people from each of the faiths represented, some of whom have brought physical objects to touch and see and taste. There is a murmur of conversation between tables about things held in common, even if it’s just bells and smells or colourful expressions of faith like pictures and paintings, statues and icons, holy books and books of prayer. Displays give an opportunity to talk about more profound matters.
The conversations prove that human inquisitiveness can mean that ‘difference’ doesn’t drive us apart. Sometimes, we can feel like tourists in our own community – and why not? There is much to discover and, with fresh eyes, we can gain a new perspective of what’s going on in people’s lives.
People settle into their seats, and soon there is the sound of bells and booming bangs of drums, along with the sparkle of colour and traditional Indian dress as the Hindu young people take to the stage. This event is an opportunity to give young people a platform, a place for them to tell their story, to share their faith, to stand alongside one another in a spirit of mutual respect and friendship, to listen, to find out more about one another. Comments and questions fill the air, aided by a roaming microphone which is passed around the room. Questions like: “So, is Cardiff a good place in which you can be a young person of faith?” The answer to this is consistent and clear: “Yes.” Cardiff was and is a multicultural and multi-religious city. It is part of its history, its heritage, its DNA, and Tiger Bay is a tantalizing image of this. Surely, something to celebrate? Something unique which Cardiff can offer the rest of Wales, the UK – even the world?
Tonight, there appears to be an appetite for more, and a desire to cast the net wider and involve young people who have no faith – so that they gain some insight or understanding of what faith and religion means to young people. Tonight, it is dark outside, but there is brightness and lightness of spirit here inside the Millennium Centre, two flights up. There is an inquisitiveness to find out more, a real desire to let the Tiger loose!
Photos courtesy of the Inter Faith Network for the UK.