Kenneth Noble
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04 November, 2015

‘Radical living’ was the title of a one-day gathering in Sheffield organised by Initiatives of Change on 24 October.

Welcoming the 70 plus participants to his city, the Lord Mayor of Sheffield, Cllr Talib Hussain, said that examples would be given of ‘taking radical actions in positive directions’.

Sheffield meeting tableAbdool Kadir Gooljar, South Yorkshire President of the Islamic Society of Britain and a prominent member of the of city’s Interfaith Group, called on the followers of different religions and faiths to ‘join forces and open doors of dialogue and interaction to live peacefully and eliminated terrorism and extremism’. The threat to global peace came from non-state actors who wanted to impose their highly bigoted and radicalised versions of religion on others. ‘They use the fair names of religions to justify their otherwise unjustifiable actions. We can defeat these people if we launch interfaith dialogue as a structured movement at the global level and build bridges among people.’

Gooljar pointed out that in ‘all three of the monotheistic faiths, we share the two greatest commandments – to love God and to love our neighbour.’ We were therefore bound to reach out to each other as neighbours with goodwill and mutual respect. ‘We must all help ease each other’s suffering and want, and promote justice, peace and harmony,’ he declared.

Jodie Marshall speaking at Sheffield meeting 24 OctoberGiving a Christian perspective, Jodie Marshall, also from Sheffield, described how at the age of 18 she had felt God telling her to spend six months in Brazil volunteering with street children and children at risk. She had raised the necessary money and done this. ‘Looking back, I see how this was a training ground for the amount of faith and patience I would need later in my life,’ she said.

Jodie, who is now a National Coordinator with Initiatives of Change, returned to the UK and set up her own social enterprise called A Mind Apart, which uses theatre to address social exclusion issues.

She told the gathering: ‘For me, radical living is about making decisions in line with my faith and following what I believe are convictions given to me by God.’ Living in such a way enabled her to work with some of the toughest kids in the UK and Brazil.

Dick Channer speaking at Sheffield meeting 24 OctoberThe main part of the day was spent discussing issues where radical living could make a positive difference. Topics ranged from how to offer an alternative to crime and gun culture in tough inner-city estates, led by Greg Davis from the United Estates of Wythenshawe, to ‘peace begins at home’, led by Amina Khalid, originally from Somalia, who runs ‘intergenerational dialogues’; from Denny Braggins’ workshop on School for Changemakers, a leadership programme for young people that looks at the ‘spiritual, personal and professional aspects of change’, to ‘living within our planet’s means’, led by Miranda Shaw, who had given up her job in order to become an environmental activist. Aleksandra Shymina, from Crimea/Ukraine, simply stood peacefully on the platform for a couple of minutes to introduce here workshop on ‘creative silence’.

Abdool Gooljar led a workshop on ‘responses to the movements of people across national borders’, a topic that encouraged the Lord Mayor to stay long after his scheduled departure.

By the end of the day everyone had heard new ideas for how they could make a positive impact on the world around them, and many had shared steps that they intended to take. Examples included:

  • A retired schoolteacher from Manchester had sent 100 solar-powered lights to Sierra Leone. Costing just £5 each, these lights could make the difference between a child in a village without electricity passing or failing his or her school exams. The lights had also played an important part in the fight against ebola. He was working through the charity, Solar Aid.
  • An Australian had put a sign up above his gate saying, ‘Asylum seekers welcome here.’ This had caused controversy and led to him being asked to write an article on the issues in The Australian newspaper.
  • One person expressed the thought that we needed to ‘make change visible’ so that other people could latch on to the ideas we put into practice.
  • Miranda Shaw offered to supply information to anyone who would like further information on environment issues (Email here).

Photos by Aleksandra Shymina