An event celebrating the diversity of Birmingham’s many racial, cultural and faith communities is to take place in Chamberlain Square this weekend as a show of unity against the planned EDL demonstration in the city centre on the same day.
Following the disturbances caused by the recent riots in August and the announcement of the proposed English Defence League protest this Saturday, faith leaders from across Birmingham got together this week to speedily co-ordinate an event to celebrate the diversity of their home city.
The event, dubbed ‘UNITY: Loving the Difference’ is a free initiative open to people of all ages, which will showcase stalls, fun activities and have a stage with contributions from local bands, DJ’s and performing artists. The event will also host a variety of fringe activities including face painting, mehndi painting (henna), a prayer space, Bollywood dance workshops, turban-tying workshops and more.
Methodist minister Rev. Andi Smith, based in the city’s Washwood Heath ward, is the event’s organising chair.
“As modern citizens we’re often good at stating our opposition to all kinds of things, ‘UNITY: Loving the difference’ is our opportunity to state what we are for. The day’s events aim to celebrate our diversity and affirm our need for one another. We’re looking forward to a positive party celebration right at the heart of the city,” he said.
The event was called by a coalition of faith and community leaders, organisations and groups from across the city as a means of projecting the true face of a vibrant city and to challenge the misconceived and skewed version of multiculturalism being peddled by the far-right.
Adam Yosef, chair of the city’s interfaith Saltley Gate Peace Group, explained:
“The EDL are one of a few radical right-wing groups whose views don’t appeal to the majority of peace loving, law-abiding citizens. Therefore, in a bid to drum up support for their cause, they actively target minority groups such as Muslims as a scapegoat for the ills of society. This is a deeply disturbing method of exploiting the real concerns of the average working class citizen.”
“Fortunately, the EDL have very little to back up their anti-Muslim claims but an ill-conceived propaganda witch-hunt. The city of Birmingham is testament to the fact that the vast majority of English Muslims are as valuable to British society as anyone else.”
Prominent faith figures in the city including Imam Muhammad Sarfraz Madni, Rev Peter. Pennant and the Bishop of Birmingham Rev David Urquhart have put their weight behind the Unity celebration.
Bishop David Urquhart said he was “delighted” the celebrative event was taking place:
“We appreciate each other, have a generous understanding of our diverse cultures and stand together against misrepresentation, divisiveness and incitement to hatred.”
Also supporting the event are organisations including the Jewish Representative Council, Muslim Council of Great Britain, Church of England, Unite Against Fascism (UAF), the Catholic Church, Birmingham Citizens, the Hindu Council of Birmingham and the Council of Black led Churches.
A CITY UNITED AGAINST HATE:
“The Council of Black Led Churches is a strategic agency that serves the church and wider communities for transformation. We recognise and celebrate the rich diversity of our city. ‘UNITY: Loving the Difference’ will promote peace and unity for families and communities in this current difficult climate. We support this event”
Rev Peter. Pennant. Council Black Led Churches
“Birmingham is one of the most diverse cities and we are incredibly proud as a Muslim community to contribute to its diversity, vibrancy and economy. ‘Unity: Loving the Difference’ is all about coming together to celebrate Birmingham. It’s going to be a showcase of how we are coming together, living together and embracing those differences. It’s about taking ownership of our city, sharing entertainment, food and entertainment from all over Birmingham, all over the world, It’s going to be a great day out.”
Mr Muhammad Sarfraz Madni, UK Islamic Mission
“Birmingham is a wonderful diverse city, with people of many different faiths. Saturday’s community celebration will see the coming together of all these different traditions as a real demonstration that we can and do work together.”
Mr. Azar Quyam, Muslim Association of Britain
“I am delighted that faith communities in Birmingham are able and willing to come together at very short notice to demonstrate to the world that our relationships are strong and trusting. We appreciate each other, have a generous understanding of our diverse cultures and stand together against misrepresentation, divisiveness and incitement to hatred.
“‘Unity: Loving the Difference’, is a creative response that has turned a challenge into an opportunity. We are celebrating our city’s resilient and pragmatic spirit that enables us to flourish in neighborhoods that are moving beyond mere respect and tolerance to the fullest appreciation and participation.”
Rev David Urquhart, Bishop of Birmingham
“As modern citizens we’re often good at stating our opposition to all kinds of things, ‘UNITY: Loving the Difference’ is our opportunity to state what we are for. The day’s events aim to celebrate our diversity and affirm our need for one another. We’re looking forward to a positive party celebration right at the heart of the city.”
Rev. Andi Smith, Methodist Minister and organising chair
“The Birmingham and West Midlands Jewish Community stands together with this demonstration of unity in our city, which is most welcome. It is only a few months ago that the city’s diverse communities came together in sympathy and solidarity which reflects the spirit of the city, for those killed during the recent riots. The strength and stability of British society is that it is a mixture of many diverse cultures established over centuries.
“Birmingham has a unique record of tolerance to those who have come here to create their homes, and in many cases a new life of hope and freedom. The Jewish community will not support those who seek to destroy the tolerance built up in Birmingham by so many generations of well meaning people, and is pleased to associate itself with this effort to bring people together whilst respecting and appreciating their differences.”
Jewish Representative Council
Organisations supporting the Unity event include:
Jewish Representative Council
Muslim Council of Great Britain
Council of Black led Churches
Church of England
The HUB Saltley
Unite Against Fascism (UAF)
Saltley Gate Peace Group
UK Islamic Mission (UKIM)
Muslim Association of Britain (MAB)
Islamic Forum of Europe
Hindu Council of Birmingham
‘Unity: Loving the Difference’ takes place in Chamberlain Square, Birmingham on Saturday 29th October between 12pm-4pm and is open to everyone. You can find the event on facebook here.