Are You Listening?
Are you listening?
The theme for this year's 4 Corners Festival, which began last Thursday evening and runs to next Sunday evening in St. Nicholas' Parish Church, is "The Art of Listening". Yesterday at Fitzroy Presbyterian, the church where 4 Corners founder, Steve Stockman, is the current minister, my friend and colleague, Heather Morris, preached a challenging sermon on that theme, and it is worth a listen (or a read).
But we began the festival with an event organised by EmbraceNI, in the City Hall; "From Syria (and elsewhere) with Grace, looking at the plight of refugees and asylum seekers coming to this city and what we as churches might do to help. It was important to be warned of the danger of our compassion for Syrian refugees here and elsewhere adversely affecting refugees and asylum seekers from elsewhere... to hear about the gap between the granting of asylum and the ability to access benefits or be permitted to take a job... and heart-breaking to hear first hand the experience of destitution that many in this process experience, with the suspicion that such destitution is being used as a deliberate instrument of government policy to encourage refugees to "go back to where they came from", But as one speaker said, the combination of the weather and the low rate of refugee support is a big enough deterrent! We need to hear these voices rather than the shrill, fear-inducing voices of too many tabloids... As Richard Kerr reminded us we need to not only discuss welcoming the stranger at the heart of this city but recognise that welcoming the stranger lies at the very heart of the Christian gospel.
But we also need to remember that there are people who come to this city reasons other than being refugees. Indeed, that an influx of migrants of all sorts should be something that we aspire to as a sign of normality and indeed prosperity in this era of "peace." Tomorrow night in one of the newest corners of this city, Poleglass, which only pormally became part of Belfast City Council last year, we encourage you to listen to the "Voices of the New Belfast."
This is a showing of some of a series of short documentaries produced by award winning film company ESC, telling the stories of various people who have only recently come to call Belfast "home". It was produced as a result of workshops in all 4 corners of the city and tells of the expereinces of these new citizens of Belfast, before and after coming here; their struggles, their joys and what they bring to this city. It was previously screened in Parliament Buildings at Stormont, and in other places during Cultural Diversity Week last year, but we are delighted to be screening it, with the opportunity to question some of the participants and film-makers, as part of 4 Corners this year in a corner of our city rarely visited by even long established citizens of Belfast...
It is being hosted by Youth Initiatives, (50 Colin Rd, Dunmurry, Belfast BT17 0LG) who for the past 25 years have been working in Poleglass, so there may also be the opportunity to hear a little of their challenging work in this new corner of our city.
Are you ready to go and listen?
(What follows is a trailer for the documentary series)