Immigration & Interculturalism
Philip McKinley reflects on the role of the Hard Gospel Project in assisting the Church of Ireland to make a positive contribution to interculturalism in Ireland
In January 2003, the Scoping Study of the Hard Gospel, dedicated a chapter to the issue of ‘Ethnic difference and Asylum-Seekers’. Its bullet-point conclusions said that ‘The issue of ethnic minorities and asylum-seekers has only recently emerged for the Church of Ireland and, although some good practice exists; most respondents have little or no experience in the area’. It went on to claim that ‘Clergy do not, on the whole, feel resourced to respond to the issue’.
From 2006-2008, therefore the Hard Gospel Project committee and team dedicated an extensive amount of energy and resources into initiatives under the following five pillars of the Parish-based Integration Project’s ‘Ecumenical Integration Strategy’:
1) Anti-Discrimination and Equality:
- Resource materials such as ‘Where Would Jesus Be’ and ‘Faith and Difference’ were developed with Church of Ireland Youth Department, to highlight issues of faith and ethnicity
- Hard Gospel intercultural values were communicated through a wide variety of print, internet, radio and television media
2) Access and Inclusion:
- Guidelines and resources for clergy and laity were produced, in partnership with the Armagh Working Group on Migration.
- A Hard Gospel Sunday ‘Welcome’ Poster was distributed to all clergy in the Church of Ireland, for display in the porches of all parish buildings.
- The Dublin and Glendalough Committee for the International Community was assisted with the organisation of migrant-friendly services within the Dioceses and support was given to the committee’s full-time staff member.
- Dialogue with migrant-led churches was encouraged, particularly with African Pentecostal churches, to build relationships with key Irish media, Christian and Government contacts, such as work with the RI Government/Faith Groups Dialogue Initiative and the RI Department of Justice.
3) Intercultural Education and Training:
- A keynote Church of Ireland Conference on Immigration, entitled ‘A Pilgrim People’, was organised in January 2008 featuring RI Minister for Integration, Mr Conor Lenihan TD, OFMDFM’s Mr Gerry Kelly MLA and the Archbishops of Dublin and Armagh.
- Regional Hard Gospel Intercultural Training was delivered and long-term planning within Dioceses was encouraged.
- Parishes engaged with intercultural issues through the ‘Reflect and Act’ and ‘Love Your Neighbour’ courses.
- Educational lectures, presentations and workshops were delivered through the CITI, secondary schools, educational fraternities, ecumenical groups, youth groups, theological colleges, migrant-led churches and parish groups.
4) Intercultural Communication and Networking:
- A Directory of Migrant-Led Churches and Chaplaincies in Ireland featuring 361 entries was produced in collaboration with the All-Ireland Churches Consultative Meeting on Racism.
- Eleven Diocesan Consultations on Immigration (in collaboration with each Bishop) were organised to hear and respond to the needs of migrants, laity and clergy throughout the island.
- Diocesan Intercultural Advisors were encouraged to be appointed in Dioceses throughout the Church of Ireland.
5) Participation and Collaboration:
- The Hard Gospel worked with the Urban Soul project to encourage the participation of young migrants.
- Church staff and Afghan hunger strikers, were also supported during and after the St Patrick’s Cathedral protest in May 2006.
- Central level committees and agencies, whose remit covered issues of interculturalism, were also encouraged to consider their contribution.
- The Hard Gospel supported a number of ecumenical initiatives such as Churches Asylum Network, All-Ireland Churches Consultative Meeting on Racism, Parish-based Integration Project and Churches Together in Britain and Ireland (Racial Justice Sunday material) and many parish groups were supported and resourced on a variety of issues of migration and interculturalism.