They say you should not ‘judge a book by its cover’. But in my world of diversity and intercultural awareness work, monitoring covers is very important for a number of reasons. Besides giving one a quick ‘bird’s eye’ view of what to expect (or not) and then to be surprised either way, a ‘cover’ can also be just that – a facade to or a ‘cover up’ of the reality. These days in publishing (especially in theology and religious studies) you will find the most amazing covers, often vibrantly exotic along with deceptive titles that may lure you into thinking that the content would be some ground-breaking or real ‘kick-ass stuff’. I have lost count of times I have been disappointed. If you do not believe have a good perusal of our 2nd hand bookshops!
But back to what I really want to zero in on: by chance I came upon ‘the European Conference on Christian Education’ and a conference currently in the process in the UK (May 9th to May 13th) on the theme: “Accompanying children on their faith journey – Thinking as, living as and being a lifelong disciple‘’. Timely to say the least!
I was curious about the organisation and event as a few of my colleagues who are responsible for children and youth ministry were in attendance: one is listed as keynote presenter. I was even more curious to see how the theme would be dealing with diversity – desperate to be surprised with some real progressive stuff. What a disappointment, with me ending up cursing myself for creating more anxiety and frustration to a sabbatical I am enjoying, by visiting the webpage. This intercultural lure can be costly!
Of course the whole programme is White European. But even more baffling, to the point of becoming painfully amusing, is the slide or power-point show to introduce participants to the conference and to London and the UK. Take a peek at these slides and let me know what you think of them. Or have a critical look at the conference programme. They can be found on this page but click on introduction to the conference. Is this the Britain you know, experience and live in? At least the two newly elected mayors would have a task on hand to convince those who prepared the PPT that actually Britain is more diverse than their stereotypical representations. Were the locals on the planning group sleeping or is this also their views?
I wonder what kind of children these organisers have in mind when they planned this programme. Should I be gracious and trusting to think that they have in mind a diversity that represents the ethnic make-up of many of our churches in our cities all across Europe? Some of the input speakers claim to be contextual practitioners. I wonder what context they will be speaking to, from and for! And, one would think that their excursion to London would also include visits to experience the multicultural vibrancy of the city. I hope the colleagues from my Church who are attending this gathering will at least point out some of this overbearing nonsense. Perhaps, I am expecting too much of them, for as a Church we cannot claim to be any better!
In the meantime, I have sadly arrived at the point (I thought I had departed from it sometime ago) where I would say to all BAME people interested in Christian Education and the nurture of their Children and Youth: keep your progeny far away from such ‘White mind-benders, events and programmes’! And do ensure that what you offer them will be multi and diverse in every way (not a reversal to what the above is offering). And if you need resource or help on resources that would be more relevant for them: try out all the writings of Anthony Reddie, check out the links on this webpage, and a host of other links such as this, among others.
jagessar May 11 2016