The ‘Clash’ of Civilizations
Nearly every day we watch the news or read a newspaper we see stories about the conflict between the Muslim world and the Western world. These stories take root in our lives and we can start to look suspiciously at people who are different from us – seeing them as possible enemies rather than a potential friend.
There is a lot of hand-wringing that goes on about the “clash of civilizations”, but actually when people just talk to each other they discover that their fears are unfounded. Mubashra, who came to England 1 year ago, and spent 6 months getting to know Jean.
Mubashra wouldn’t order the teas and coffees at first; wherever she went I did the talking. After a couple of trips I persuaded Mubashra to have a go. By the end of the 6 months Mubashra would go to the counter without hesitating. I don’t think what I did had a direct influence on Mubashra looking for and being successful in getting a job but I think I gave her some confidence to talk to people from a different culture.
Jean has literally changed the world for Mubashra – just by talking with her. Relationships like Jean and Mubashra have a ripple effect as both people talk to friends and family about their experiences. The more relationships there are like Jean and Mubashras, the less likely we are to believe sensational headlines.
Talking over the Fence
Here at St. Mary’s, a group of women are coming together to learn how to form friendships which cross all these barriers. They are finding out that under the surface we are all just people with the same hopes and worries, joys and fears – and that the differences we do have can make our lives richer.
Jo Watts and Aroose Uppal are running what is officially called a ‘Cross Cultural Mentoring Programme’ – but really it is a way of helping people - getting to know other people in the community. Local women pair up with newly arrived Asian women and help them to find their way around the city, to feel at home and practice speaking English.
I went to my mentees house to have a meal with her family and grandchildren. We ate delicious food; I’ve had gifts of food before from neighbours around Eid but never gone and sat in someone’s house before….It’s really exceeded my expectations.
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