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22 June 2017

Majority World Christians in Wales

An exhibition launched in the National Assembly for Wales this week by the Alliance has highlighted the growing cultural and ethnic diversity of Christianity in Wales. 

The majority world Christians in Wales and their contribution to Welsh society, was praised and welcomed by Welsh government for its work in building bridges between various Christian community groups and in bringing them together for the launch in the iconic Senedd building. 

The term “majority world” refers to Asia, Africa and Latin America, and provides a fresh way of looking at the growing multicultural nature of Welsh Christianity. It includes both Christian communities that are mainly comprised of refugees, for example Eritrean and Iranian, and others that arrived in Wales for work, such as the Tamil and Malayalam-speaking communities from South India, many of whom are healthcare professionals. 

What will the exhibition accomplish? Firstly, it will encourage Christians in Wales through the launch and exhibition taking place in the Senedd building, Secondly, for majority world Christians in Wales, it will celebrate achievements by focusing on their contribution to Welsh society rather than simply noting their presence in Wales. Thirdly, it will challenge negative perceptions of Christianity that may be held by politicians, civil servants, journalists and the general public. As the multicultural and multi-ethnic nature of the Welsh Church becomes more evident to policy makers and influencers, the voice and perspectives of majority world Christians will hopefully be heard. Fourthly, it will play a role in enhancing religious literacy. 

There are many ways in which majority world Christians in Wales are making a contribution. Iraj Irfan, for example, a 13 year old from the Pakistani community, decided a month ago to submit a petition to the National Assembly for Wales in support of religious assemblies in state schools in Wales. This week she presented the petition to members of the Assembly’s petition committee, which will be discussed at their next meeting on 27 June. This is contributing by taking part in democracy. 

 A soft asset that many majority world Christians in Wales have to offer is their lived experience of everyday multiculturalism, both in their countries of origin and sometimes here as well. Christian communities in Wales such as Armenians, Iraqis, Syrians and Pakistanis have arrived because of religious persecution. They also, however, have generally experienced peaceful co-existence in their past as well and can therefore offer insight into how their situation has changed. This would be a valuable perspective to feed into discussions on community cohesion and counter-extremism. 

 The exhibition is running in the Senedd until 30 June. See here for an article written for the Click on Wales website.