There's been lots of talk in recent years in the UK, and currently in Germany, about integration, diversity, multi-culturalism, migration and immigration: generally with a negative slant, implying or stating outright that people should adapt to what's seen as the indigenous culture and religion (even when many no longer practise that religion and aren't always sure of what culture may mean).
Personally, I find it fascinating and enriching to live somewhere with such a range of religions, cultures, geographies food and everything bumping into and living alongside each other (if in somewhat separate parts of the city to some degree). I've been to a major Sikh Gurdwara (temple) in Smethwick, with a warm welcome and sense of community. I've been to the 10th anniversary of Birmingham-based group Writers without Borders , poets and musicians from around the globe, Kurdish, Caribbean, African, Asian, European, and Birmingham-born who've found a new life and voice here and know how to celebrate and get the audience to join in! Earlier this evening I joined an attentive audience at the annual Carr's Lane lecture series*, listening to Dr Indarjit Singh, known to many as the regular presenter of Thought for the Day: a thoughtful and lucid spokesman for the values and teachings of Sikhism.
We wouldn't have all this if it wasn't for some notion of allowing for various identities and backgrounds to express themselves and share in communal life. Whatever the challenges and needs, being here has given me the chance to see and listen, if only briefly, to people's experiences and to imbibe something of their understanding.
I hope Brum stays as diverse and multi-cultural for a long time to come: in fact, I hope it doesn't stop being so. The antis, some real extremists and thugs (whatever they try to say on their websites), can only diminish our society, whatever their axe is to grind. No-one's superior and no-one has one single hold on "the truth". We need various highways and experiences lived to begin to understand how to tap into one single source of life, if that's all there is.
And life can always be celebrated.
*Carr's Lane lectures in radical Christian Faith.