“The ocean is like God and raindrops are the religion. When they fall into the ocean they become one.”
Zoya Ahmed and Nurun Uddin
The Feast is an innovative youth work charity based in Birmingham promoting community cohesion and good citizenship between Christian and Muslim young people.
By working in schools and amongst churches and mosques we seek to establish trusting relationships with young people from diverse communities, then invite them to come together in structured settings where they can meet each other, have some fun, while discussing their faith in a safe way, and set about changing their world.
We facilitative an environment where they can explore the similarities and differences between their faiths, create friendships built on respect and honesty, and then turn their minds and hands to the mutually shared problems they find around them. So whether it be cleaning up litter or addressing bullying of minorities, we are finding that young people of faith are keen to get involved in finding solutions.
The Feast is building on over 10 years of pioneering work in this field by Dr Andrew Smith of Youth Encounter and Scripture Union, including considerable piloting of the strategy and Masters and PHD level research. We are confident that there is currently no other organisation attempting this form of youth, inter-faith engagement in the UK.
The communities where we work are made up of young people from mainly Pakistani and Bangladeshi origin, and the schools we have workers in are over 90% Muslim. The Christian young people come from churches local to these schools, as well as through contacts in towns
further afield such as Kenilworth and Knowle.
Youth events are at the core of The Feast, as we establish trusting relationships with each group separately then invite them to come together, have fun, explore faith, create friendships and as a result begin to change their own lives and the outlook of others in their communities. For all events we strive for very close to equal numbers of Christian and Muslim young people and leaders.
A friend of The Feast, Helen Tomblin, who founded The Laughing Sole Comedy Club in Stirchley Village, came to us in 2010 and asked if we thought humour and stand-up comedy might be a good vehicle to use in bringing our Christian and Muslim young people together. We were very keen, even though the concept was much more expensive than the events we normally run, and has a degree of risk associated.
At any age, but especially secondary school students, being able to make people laugh is a valuable skill. It garners popularity and influence, and can make school a lot of fun for many young people. But for others it can cut deep to the heart and lead some to anger, despair and pain.
This is true for people of the Christian and Muslim faiths, as much as those of no faith. It is fine and natural to laugh about the funny things within our own family, culture or faith of course. But when we turn our jokes on people who are different to us, often informed by half-truths, ignorance and prejudice, we do little more than cause hurt and drive them away from us.
Therefore, our aim is to open up this discussion, help young people to realise the effect humour can have in their community, and then inspire and equip them to be proactive peace-makers who make people laugh.
The Feast would like to thank the Westhill Endowment Fund for their very kind support that has made these comedy events possible.