The foundation stone of St Paul’s Manningham in Bradford, an early English Gothic-style York stone church, was laid on the 5th November 1846. The population of the Parish of Manningham has always been in a constant state of change. These days, we have church members from other parts of Bradford, as well as members from abroad. There are many rented houses and flats in Manningham, so it is not unusual for people to come and join us for a short while before they move on. On the other hand, some of our members have been worshipping here for 70 years or more. When the church was built, Manningham was expanding as people came to work in the mills. The decline in its fortunes echoed those of the rest of Bradford in the 20th century, but the mosaic of cultures, beginning with German Jewish merchants arriving from the 1830s, continued with immigrants from Eastern Europe after World War II followed by Caribbeans, Pakistanis, Indians and Bangladeshis.
The term ‘Sharakat’ (Communion) in Urdu speaks about the spiritual relationship or close association between faith communities. The term encourages the faith communities to meet and share with one another their intrinsic values on matters that affect the common life of the people in Manningham. Some of the issues faced by our community are poverty and unemployment and their effects which are visible on our streets. How do we address issues such as drugs, alcohol, violence, prostitution and sometimes our own isolation from each other? We are speaking about ourselves, our own people, our own youth and our own children. Sharakat (Communion) is an attempt to develop a common agenda: a way forward to make our community better. An initiative of St. Paul's Church, on the one hand, we invite our neighbours of different faiths to discuss and respond together to issues in Manningham and, on the other hand, we share with our neighbours because of our faith, doing our portion of caring for the poor through a Drop-in Café.
The first Sharakat meeting was in February 2008, which was attended by about 70 people from nearly every faith community. The main speaker was a young Muslim law student who talked about the opportunities and challenges of working together in Manningham. He highlighted the challenges faced by young people in general and Muslims in particular. He referred to drug-related issues. He stressed the need to engage youth in our society at every level. People from different faith communities responded to what they had heard and showed support for Sharakat (Communion) as a way of promoting dialogue and action to build social capital in Manningham. The need to keep youth at the centre of activities was underlined. The meeting finished with a shared meal.
Subsequent meetings have included, for example:
· the involvement of the Police and a focus on preventing crime;
· input from Bradford District Faiths Forum;
· reports about work with asylum seekers and how churches were uniting with other agencies to make Bradford a city of sanctuary;
· tours of the nineteenth century Reform Synagogue which was fighting closure;
· presentations of new developments and other projects in Manningham;
· reports from representatives of each group about their service to the community;
St Paul’s produces a quarterly newsletter, which includes reports of the Sharakat.
There is a steering group included members of the Urdu speaking congregation, the PCC, ecumenical partners and the Vicar. The research aims to raise the profile of South Asian Christians and to encourage and help them to integrate with the wider Christian community in the UK with more confidence. It will make recommendations for ways of reaching out (especially to young people), building the capacity and confidence of this community and reducing social exclusion
One offshoot was the launch of the 'Sadbhavana Sangaatee' (Goodwill Gathering) between St Paul’s and Shree Laksmi Narayan Hindu Temple in the Bradford 3 postal district in December 2009. It arose from recognition of the importance of building trust in the city and in our neighbourhoods. 'Sadbhavana Sangaatee' indicates a person who has good feelings towards others. This initiative is the result of a few important meetings facilitated by the Vicar and Director of Bradford District Faiths Forum and Mr. Kashmir Singh Rajput (The Chair of the BDFF) held at the Hindu Cultural Society and Gurdwara Guru Gobind Singh Ji in Bradford. During these meetings, it was observed that there was an urgent need for the major faith communities in Bradford to have goodwill gatherings to avoid the possible future isolation of faith communities from one another; to promote good interfaith relations; to highlight the contribution of different faith communities building the economy of this city; and to increase the understanding between all faith communities and wider society. Some meetings were arranged with the Bishop of Bradford and his Interfaith Advisor in which the Hindu and Sikh Communities in Bradford expressed their concern that the majority faiths and Bradford Council were not giving enough attention to minority faith communities. The meetings looked critically into how to promote the inclusion of all faith communities in decision-making regardless of their size.
Church Urban Fund and Diocesan Social Services, Bradford District Faiths Forum. We need more funding to appoint a co-ordinator. We are financially secure until September 2012.
We are reliant on volunteers in the Café and, calculated on the basis of the minimum wage, their contribution amounts to over £3000 p.a.
· Sharakat supported Sadbhavana Sangtee (Goodwill Gathering) an initiative of St. Paul’s Manningham and Shree Laksmi Narayan Temple in Bradford 3.
· Sharakat (Communion) was used as platform by the Bradford Council to communicate its strategy and seek support from the local community to prevent any possible conflict caused by the English Defence League.
· Sharakat supported the initiative of Save the Mothers Trust in Bradford 6.
· There is every possibility that Sharakat (Communion) model will strengthen community relationships in Lidget Green area.
· Making everyone welcome.
· Bringing faith leaders together.
· Furthering interfaith understanding as well as identifying and acting on issues of common concern.
· Mixing socially and sharing meals as well as having ‘business’ meetings.