Just before Easter, the Ammerdown Centre and Bristol-based charity Salaam Shalom brought together at Ammerdown a group of 10 young people, aged 16 to 25, for four days of discussing and sharing about issues of identity and faith.
The group was very diverse, both in terms of cultural and faith background. The young people originated from different places, including Britain, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Israel. As for beliefs, they varied from practising Christians and Muslims to someone brought up in a strict Muslim household but no longer practising, a non practising Jew, and even an atheist.
They spent four intensive days together, engaging in a wide variety of activities which all had one common denominator: encouraging and helping members of the group to share in open and honest dialogue.
The feedback was extraordinary. The four days clearly touched everyone in a profound way. They all agreed that they were leaving as ‘better people’, who had benefited from feeling listened to, but also from learning themselves how to listen ‘truly’ to others and respect different opinions and perspectives.
The two members of staff from Saalam Shalom who put the programme together and attended the four days, commented afterwards: “It is really encouraging that all the young people who participated, without exception, said they would recommend the experience to another young person. They believe the benefits of attending this event include learning to ‘understand human beings’, ‘working towards a common goal’, ‘expressing opinions’, ‘developing creativity’, ‘meeting new friends’, ‘opening your mind’, ‘a great chance to meet both similar and dissimilar young people alike outside of education’, ‘a chance to refine and challenge your own philosophies in an open environment’ and… ‘eating delicious food!”.
Here is some of the feedback from the young people themselves:
“Deepened my understanding of other world faiths outside my own.”
“Thank you so much. I had a great time and learnt so much which has helped open my mind.”
“Everyone came from different backgrounds and have something different to share as well as find common ground and beliefs. It was a spiritual awakening, not just in the religious sense, but just as a person you begin to develop how you feel and perceive things – going on a journey with others where you are supported.”
Reinforced my conviction that every debate requires more than one side
We at Ammerdown are delighted that the event was such a success, in Ammerdown’s true tradition of facilitating open dialogue between people of different backgrounds and beliefs.