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Building Bridges

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Building Bridges

An Inter-faith Community Project

 

What follows is a brief outline of a proposed three-year programme based in Nelson and Brierfield.

It will employ a full-time community based project coordinator and a full-time outreach worker who will initiate strategies to develop inter-active programmes that will encourage the participation of local people in order to promote better understanding and strengthen relationships between people of differing faiths and cultures.  There will also be a part-time clerical worker.

The Local Situation

In terms of both colour and religion Nelson and Brierfield are mixed communities.  At 21% the ethnic population is way above the national average.  In Pendle as a whole it is 10%; the national average is 4.5%. It should also be borne in mind that the ratio is not consistent in each ward; in Whitefield, for example, it is 51%. (These figures are taken from the 1991 Census).  The vast majority of the ethnic community are Asian Muslims whose families originate from Pakistan.  However, Nelson also has one of the largest and strongest Asian Christian Communities in the country.  Broadly speaking the relationships between Caucasian and Asian people vary.  In some instances they are excellent whereas, at the other extreme, there is deep-seated prejudice and mistrust.

Two aspects of local community life are self-evident:

  1. There already exist a number of statutory and voluntary agencies, which address the needs of local people.  However, most of these operate independently of each other or have only limited consultation and/or working partnerships.  This does not necessarily reflect an unwillingness to work collaboratively; rather it is that hectic work schedules mitigate against this.  MAGnet (Multi-Agency Group Network) is a forum attended by managers representing many statutory and voluntary organisations, which is proactive in developing collaborative patterns of working.  A member of the Building Bridges Steering Group is a member of this group and all feel the Project will make a valuable contribution to the communities of Nelson and Brierfield.  Also, due tribute should be paid to Pendle Borough Council for initiating and/or encouraging projects that identify and address local need.
  2. A significant number of local people are involved with places of worship, both churches and mosques.  It is a sad but true fact that racism and prejudice are also exhibited by some of those who claim to have faith and are regular worshippers.  It is also the case that such prejudice is based largely on ignorance and mistrust of that which is seen as "other".

Many people of faith, identified as group 2) above are also active within group 1) so it is envisaged that there will be some overlap.  By keeping those identified at 1) informed and also by being aware of their areas of concern a 'spin-off, provided it meets the needs of existing organisations, could be a more strategic networking of information.  The project has been given the working title of 'Building Bridges' because that is precisely what it aims to do.

Building Bridges-the Proposed Programme.

It should be noted that this is a draft proposal.  Others may well identify areas overlooked or make positive suggestions to improve the outline programme.  All such comments are welcome.  It is the nature of the project that nothing is 'carved in stone' but that within the defined framework there is scope for development and dynamism.

Premises

By initially using St Mary's as a base, the project will be based in the Whitefield ward in the heart of Nelson in premises already accepted by both Christians and Muslims.  It is the meeting place for the Inter-faith group and is ripe for development.  In the event of this building being sold a comparable alternative will be sought within the same ward.  Outreach work in Brierfield could be at the Community Centre.

Conclusion

It is anticipated that this project will address local needs not currently being met.  At worst it will try its best and fail after one year through lack of support; at best it will establish a model of collaborative work and development that may be taken up and taken forward by other communities.

Contact Building.Bridges @ pendle.net for further information and to comment on the project.

Building Bridges, c/o Edge End High School, Hibson Road, Nelson, Lancashire, BB9 0PZ


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Last modified: August 19, 2004