The Columbans’ ‘Invitation to Mission’ Programme recently saw the UK host a group of ten participants from the Columbans in the USA, looking to deepen their faith and explore how the Columbans and others work for justice, peace and dialogue in a changing Britain.
And a changing Britain it certainly has been. Just a week after the Brexit result, the American group touched down at Heathrow, ready to be encouraged, challenged and to learn from this cross-cultural encounter.
The ten-day programme was bursting with a variety of visits, encounters and experiences which were rooted in three major themes: Inter-religious dialogue, Migration and Justice, peace and the integrity of creation.
Here are a few snippets from the blogs of five of the participants:
“We had the very unique experience of meeting with both a Member of Parliament and a member of the House of Lords. We saw the many positive roles faith can play in politics, especially in very precarious and divisive times throughout the world.” Rebeca Eastwood, Advocacy Associate at the Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach in Washington DC.
“We toured one of Europe’s largest Sunni mosques, and listened to a group of empowered and faithful Muslim women at a Shia mosque. Upon walking into the Sunni mosque, I felt a stirring in my heart, the same kind of stirring that I feel when I enter my home parish of St Mark’s: a feeling of welcome, love and holiness.” Joshua Lopez from El Paso, Texas.
“We had the chance to walk around the section of Birmingham known as Sparkhill, to explore the culture and religions of the area through observation and conversation with the residents. I found out the meaning of ‘Halal’, and talked to a man called Rizzi from Afghanistan. He was very helpful in explaining to us about the different types of meat and a little bit about their culture.” Alejandro Lara, member of the Young Adult Ministry Community of St Luke’s Catholic Church in El Paso.
“We met Ellen Teague of the Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation team of the British Region, who discussed Laudato Si’ and its impact. Afterwards, we had some time to reflect on the discussion topics through some form of art. It was a beautiful experience and a time of solitude to reflect, not only on Ellen’s topic, but the week so far in the UK.” Mark Brown from Virginia
“Today we met Teresa who is a Bethel duola. Some of the services that she provides to asylum and refugee women include listening and providing emotional support and staying with the women when they are in labour and giving birth. Most of us were not aware of the amount of suffering that these women and girls have endured.” Gloria Matamoros, Columban Companion in Mission, from the St Pius X parish community in El Paso.