Niall Cooper: Faith in the fragments
Fragmentation is increasingly the shared experience of most of us living in urban communities. Manchester, the melting pot of the industrial revolution, is now more fragmented than at any time in its history. The divisions were simpler 100, 50 or even 20 years ago: City or United; Catholic or Protestant. Nowadays, the divisions are not so much black and white, but 50 shades in between.
Urban life the world over is increasingly characterised by huge disparities in wealth, income, life experience and opportunity. While inhabiting the same geographic space, the urban rich and urban poor increasingly live separated lives and have totally different experiences of what it means to live in the city. How on earth can we make sense of Manchester City spending £500 million on a new football team, playing in the midst of East Manchester, where families go to bed hungry for the want of £5 to put food on the table?
Urban communities are also increasingly diverse in social, ethnic and religious terms. A couple of years ago, I helped launch the Manchester Refugee Charter – celebrating the fantastic contribution of refugees to the city. More than 50 refugee communities were represented, spanning the alphabet from Afganis to Zimbabweans. My own neighbourhood, Whalley Range, is the most diverse ward in the country according to the 2011 census. Christian, Muslim, Sikh and Hindu; English, Polish, Indian, Pakistani, French, US; straight and gay – all rub shoulders just on our small street. People rub along and tensions are few; but, for the most part, we lead unconnected, parallel lives. …
Niall Cooper is director of Church Action on Poverty and convenor of the Inner Manchester Mission Network of the United Reformed Church
This is an extract from the July/August 2013 edition of Reform.
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