Julia Faire celebrates diversity
Fish 'n' chips: Classic Continental cuisine
IF you’re visiting the chippie today for what you think is a real British meal, please tell yourself that it was refugees fleeing Portugal, France and Spain several hundred years ago who first introduced fish and chips to England!
I’ve been designing and running a new course at Coventry Jesus Centre: ‘UK: a Mix of Cultures: Imports, Immigrants and Refugees.’ Students are learning English (I’m an ESOL teacher); they’re also learning about the unique and huge contribution immigrants to the UK have made over the years. I’m learning too... I had no idea just how large that contribution was – and it’s a cause to celebrate.
The Jesus Centre’s motto is everyone is valued, regardless of nationality, gender, age, sexuality, etc. Whilst the immigration debate rages outside in the nation, inside the Jesus Centre we not only celebrate our common humanity; we value the individuality of each one and recognise the unique contribution each can make. This is the practical outworking of our theology: we are all made in the image of God.
Did you know, for instance, that the Romans were responsible for bringing onions, garlic, cabbages, peas, celery, turnips, radishes and leeks to our shores? And you nation of coffee drinkers, remember that coffee came from Ethiopia. (The Arabic qahwa has become our ‘coffee’.) Arabs were cultivating it in the 14th century.
Last week we learned that about 13% of English words are of ancient Greece origin (including democracy) and, no, democracy was not our invention. About half the words we use are Anglo-Saxon words – that means they originated from the northern European mainland, not our island.
William the Conqueror’s unwelcome invasion and the subsequent close ties between our neighbouring lands gave rise to 10,000 French words being introduced into our language; our towns, village, cities and rivers were often named by foreigners, albeit many of whom became settlers. Mother ‘Thames’ is a Celtic word for Dark River (Celts originally came from central Europe).
Malala Yousafzai, Nobel Prize laureate
Eleven refugees or children of refugees from the UK are Nobel Prize science winners. Refugees and immigrants have made their impact on British life: Sigmund Freud (Austrian psychoanalyst), Joseph Conrad (Polish writer), Michael Marks (Russian founder of Marks and Spencers) to name but a few of the better known ones. We’ve looked at the life of Pakistani social entrepreneur Malala Yousafzai and Somali runner Mo Farah and next week we’re going to read about Alec Issigonis (Greek car designer), Jacob Epstein (Polish-Jewish sculptor with connections to Coventry) and the Saatchi brothers from Iraq who founded Saatchi and Saatchi advertising agency.
As a teacher I want to show my students there’s more than one side to every story. I want to move away from rigid mind-sets and stereotyping and most importantly, to inspire them that they too can make a positive contribution to UK life, like many others have done before them. At the Jesus Centre, we want to inspire, too, because we want to leave a lasting impression on people because we believe in them.
The feedback has been brilliant; the course has been thoroughly enjoyed, we feel inspired, we’ve all learned such a lot. The fostering of social bonds comes with respect, with listening, with learning from others.
Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers,” – those who bring peace, harmony between people, who foster understanding, listen and draw people together, not split them apart.
In these divisive times, let’s be peacemakers – and one of those ways is to celebrate diversity and contributions to our national life from many different sources.