Faith, Peace

& Politics

Introduction

So much of the life and work of Community House is woven together of strands that are almost impossible to unravel. However, community, faith, politics and peace would seem to be the main threads.

My call to the ministry in 1938 had less to do with preaching than with new and radical ways of service to the underprivileged, whose lack of political power was of growing concern to me. I became more critical of the Church’s obsession with the past, and her isolation from the poor and their cry for social justice.

Politics is the way we order the life of our community both local and international. Not to be in politics is to be political. It is to say yes to the continuing destruction of our environment and our communities. It is to accept that profit is more important than creation.

– Cyril Summers

Eventually Cyril was to decide that he needed to take a more active role directly in politics and was made a ward councillor for Maindee and then the Mayor in 1983. Cyril had always been a staunch supporter of the Labour Party.

He was a strongly motivated Peace Maker and as Mayor chose the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament as his chosen charity and discouraged any military marching in his Mayoral Parade.

Marilyn Priday

20 November 2017

Marylyn Priday, a pivotal member of the Church, talks about Cyril and peace making: “it wasn’t just about peace at Community House, it was peace in the world”, Cyril was a conscientious objector, had Quaker interests and had visited Hiroshima.”

Asian Club

Asian Club started life as the Newport Citizens Community Centre, funded by the Education Department. In the first Annual Report of life in Stage 2, we can find the following,

It seems that every time we open a newspaper or turn on the television, the question of immigrants and the coloured population explosion is a hot topic. This must make immigrants living within our community very uneasy and anxious, and as a result become inward looking and isolated rather than outward looking and integrated. Newport has never had an immigrant problem and we are working we hope, to prevent one ever arising.

– Cyril Summers

Cyril wrote that the Church was particularly concerned about the Pakistani women who seemed to lead very isolated lives. They spoke little or no English, and were given very little encouragement to learn by their husbands.

Yousaf Ali

Unknown

A short film, 'A Home from Home', by Robert Brown. The film follows the life of Yousuf Ali, a Pakistani man who moved to South Wales and was a visitor of Community House.

Yousaf Ali

27 March 2018

Yousuf Ali, who appears in the film above, is still a local resident: Yousuf attended Asian Club and describes the club’s activities.

The Asian Club.

One report by an Asian member of the club described an open meeting between children, parents and staff from various schools and representatives of the Education Department.

As the date coincided with Eid, it became something of a social event. The girls’ dresses were very pretty and the boys looked most elegant. About eighty people turned up …The chef from a local restaurant cooked eastern delicacies and party food, aided by some of the boys. Mrs Jones and her helpers arranged the refreshments beautifully, so if anyone feels like having a curry party, send for Myfanwy.

– Asian Club member

Many Pakistanis became drivers on Newport Transport and would embarrass us by refusing to take our fares and even using the buses more like a taxi service.

With the growth of Caribbean activities, both secular and religious in Pillgwenlly, the Newport Citizens Community Centre increasingly catered only for Asians and was simply referred to as the Asian Club.

– Cyril Summers

Eventually the club became a youth club for Asian boys and then finished altogether. There was another demand for an Asian boys club In the late 80’s but this did not last long as by then Gwent Youth Service believed provision should be mixed and integrated.

Community Relations Councils

Successive wardens of the Asian Club, Ravi and David and then Brian following his appointment as Community House Youth and Community Warden and myself became the natural advisors to many Pakistani complaints concerning housing, employment, education, welfare rights and immigration control. We helped to fill in forms, contact various agencies including the Colonial Office, provide explanations for many queries and throw a little light on misunderstandings.

– Cyril Summers

In 1977 in response to the 1976 Race Relations Act, Cyril, Brian, Ingrid and Yousaf Ali, helped to set up Newport Community Relations Councils, meeting at Civic Centres across Gwent.

Brian became the first secretary at Community House. Eventually a countywide council, Gwent Council for Racial Equality was set up. Between 1988 and 1990 Ingrid became Chair of GCRC, and sat on the National Committee of CRC Chairs, which oversaw the development and adoption of a national constitution for the new Race Equality Councils in 1990.

During the next few years, with support from Newport Borough Council, GCRC matured into South East Wales Racial Equality Council (SEWREC). Community House Eton Road (CHER) has strong links with SEWREC and Dave Phillips, its manager is chair of Trustees at CHER.

Refugees

One of the groups always in the thoughts of the Church and the community centre is the population of displaced persons who, because of war, famine, political action or natural disaster, find themselves refugees. One significant group that was involved with Community House arrived from Vietnam.

The Vietnamese Boat People

The Vietnamese boat people who arrived in Newport from London, fleeing from Communist domination and oppression were welcomed at Community House and provided with their first meal. I knew with what care that meal was prepared. It was not traditional British or Welsh fare, but a nutritious and substantial offering as close to their own home cooking as it could possibly be. Many returned.

– Cyril Summers

Refugees and asylum seekers are always welcomed and provision varies from time to time as the need arises. The most recent refugees to be helped come from China.

Trish Johns

01 May 2017

Trish Johns, who works with refugees for Newport City Council, explains how they came to use Community House.

Refugees and asylum seekers find a home at Community House, 2008.

Bundles

One of the current ways in which Community House supports refugees and other vulnerable groups is Bundles. This group was set up in 2015 by Sally-Anne Evans. Sal is a Community Development Manager and Arts Officer, who also acts as a doula (birth attendant). She had supported two pregnant women seeking asylum. She realised how intimidating it must be for women with little English giving birth in a hospital with no family or friends. She established Bundles to offer practical and emotional support to pregnant women or those with children up to age 2, who may be isolated, vulnerable and in need of friendship.

Volunteers provide baby clothes and equipment, categorise and sort them and get it ready for sharing. They also accompany women to antenatal appointments and stay with them during birth; they befriend those with little babies who may want company, advice and some help. Bundles opened at Community House two afternoons a week led by the very women who had received the original support from Sal. Women visit to borrow and take what they need. Users of the service include refugees, asylum seekers and any mother in poverty or need.

Greenham Common

In the summer 1981 a group of people marched 120 miles from Cardiff to Greenham Common. They were protesting against Cruise Missiles, nuclear weapons that were going to be kept there by the American army. The 36 women and some men asked to meet the commander of the army base but were refused. They decided to stay at the base in a peace camp. The camp quickly became famous and many thousands of women went there to stay for a while to show they supported peace. The peace camp had very basic conditions and the soldiers were often brutal when the women demonstrated about peace. In 1987 a treaty was signed by many nations to ban Cruise missiles.

Paul Flynn

2018

Paul Flynn MP, talks about Greenham Common: “The most eloquent symbol of the movement was of women surrounding the NATO base – there was miles and miles of it. Women linked hands going around the base, putting the fragility of their bodies between the base and the weapons that were coming in.”

The walkers stopped at Community House on their way. On a scorching hot day they were invited to rest in the garden and Dorothy Summers brought out the playgroup children’s padding pool so they could cool their feet. Nine women spent the night in the home of Ingrid Wilson. Cyril and the Church provided active support and practical help at the Peace Camp for many years. A plaque in the coffee lounge records the event.

Ingrid Wilson

20 March 2018

Ingrid Wilson describes how the women and men marching to Greenham Common came to Community House: They stayed overnight and Community House supported the women in the peace camp for a long time afterwards.

The Peace Garden

Once it was realized that the new building would have to be built in stages, after much soul-searching it was decided that the “Church” would be the third and final phase. Sadly finances never permitted more building. On the site that was allocated for that purpose is now the Peace Garden: a place that can be enjoyed by all.

– Sandra Coombs

Development of the garden also happened in stages,

The improvements carried out by Duffryn High School have at last been put to good use, for the playgroups were able to use the ‘garden’ for the first time during 1972. There are further improvement to be made of of course, but it means a lot to enjoy grass in our grimy, noisy situation.

– Community House Annual Report, 1973

The Peace Garden.

In early 2000 a Peace Garden Committee led by Brian included:

Andy O’Rourke (A local artist)
Aston Thompson (Church of God)
Charles Reynolds (Extend Exercise tutor)
Chris Wood
Easton Collins (Church of God)
Haydn Jones (Volunteer gardener)
Ingrid Wilson
Lana Pearce (Community Development Officer)
Pavlina Mondol (Support staff)
Rahila Hamid (Ashiana) Roya Azordegan (An ESOL tutor)
Rubina (Ashiana)

Money came from a European Regional Development Fund, Newport City Council, Western Power Distribution, and Community House.

In 2004 Community Design for Gwent led extensive consultations and drew up designs. Chris Wood constructed a curved oak bench; Andy O’Rourke made the mural for the seat with TLC and pupils from Maindee Primary. All users of Community House were invited to have a say on the plans and people could pay for plants in tribute or as memorials. More than £2000 worth of planting was donated by local individuals. The Mayor attended a ceremonial peace tree planting, and the garden officially opened in July 2015. An olive tree was planted by Newport Interfaith Group and Rev Angus Duncan came and planted a cherry tree.

In 2006 the garden won a Newport in Bloom award – 2nd in the 'Community Garden' category.

Steven Phillips & Carol Wadsworth

11 April 2018

Carol and Steven, past head and deputy of Maindee School, explain the role of the school in developing the Peace Garden: The children had an integral role in developing the Peace Garden, their artwork was used and they attended the opening. Staff took great pains to help them understand the concepts.

Peace Day at Community House

The first anniversary of the Peace Garden in July 2006 was celebrated in the garden. This happened twice as a low-key event, attended mostly by the members of the Church and the ladies learning English as a second language.

When Marilyn became Interfaith Development Worker the event got bigger. It was to be a Peace Day, still celebrating the Peace Garden, but also celebrating the diversity, which is to be found in Maindee.

Most of the different Community House groups get involved. Some groups, like Maindee Active Girls were happy to perform sketches on the stage while others worked behind the scenes. Afia Ijaz once recited verses from the Qu’ran, together with her pupils and Newport Mind took part with stories, poems etc.

Peace Day celebrated in the Peace Garden.

Ten years later we are still celebrating Peace Day. The United Nations Day of Peace is on 21st September so it is held on the nearest Saturday to this date.

The mayor is usually in attendance and Jessica Morden MP has always managed to call in. One year is memorable because she came although she was moving house on that day! Other people have been guests because of their interest in Interfaith or in the work of Community House.

Events change from year to year but candles are always lit and prayers said for each of the major world faiths.

Community House Peace Day was chosen to be one of only eight case studies in the Welsh Assembly Government’s ‘All Wales Community Cohesion Strategy’ launched on 3rd December 2009.

The Peace Mala

The idea for the Peace Mala came from Pam Evans, who, in 2001 was teaching in Llanelli. When the destruction of the Twin Towers in New York happened, the terrible event brought with it an aftermath of fear and confusion, a rise in Islamaphobia, racism and prejudice. Pam’s immediate concern was for the minority of Muslim and Asian pupils in her school who were bullied. The concept of the Peace Mala was her response.

A mala is a bracelet, a gift of peace. Pam devised a workshop where students work together to construct a mala. It makes use of the rainbow image, which is a symbol of hope. While making their Peace Mala of coloured glass beads, students learn about major world faiths. There is a double rainbow of beads with a white bead in the centre to represent the individual his or herself. Each other bead represents a religion or faith group.

Pam Evans threading the beads on a Peace Mala bracelet.

Community House became the first Peace Mala Accredited Community Centre in 2010 having demonstrated evidence of work in seven different areas. The Peace Mala ceremony was held that year at Gorleston Abbey in Manchester, where Terry Waite CBE awarded the accreditation.

The spirit of the Peace Mala is evident in every aspect of the work and life of Community House. In order to obtain the Gold level accreditation that it now holds, evidence had to be submitted in 7 areas. This is the list of activities described in the application in 2018:

1. Engaging with the Peace Mala project.

2. Showing how we encourage global citizenship.

3. Supporting human rights and helping prevent bullying and all forms of prejudice.

4. Raising awareness of issues of global interdependence and encouraging active compassion by members that will lead to positive changes locally and globally.

5. Encouraging the celebration of cultural, racial and religious diversity through art, music, drama and dance.

6. Engaging with the natural world with environment/animal projects.

7. Encouraging peace education by forming a Peace Council and engaging in peace activities.

Marilyn Priday

20 November 2017

Marilyn Priday explains the idea behind Peace Mala: Pam Evans developed Peace Mala after the 9/11 attacks in New York in 2001. It took the universal symbol of the rainbow and used it to work for peace and understanding. Community House became the first officially accredited Peace Mala centre in the UK.

One World Week

One World Week is a national charity founded in 1978 to raise awareness about peace, justice and sustainable development issues. It stimulates people to organise local events about global justice. In 2002 it became part of the European Global Education Week Network, coordinated by the North-South Centre of the Council of Europe.

In the 1980’s One World Week activities were led by Brian and Cyril in Community House and this inspired Ingrid and others. 1989 a Local OWW committee was set up with Cyril in the Chair. Coordinated activities in Newport carried on for more than ten years. In 1994 there was a national OWW seminar in Newport to see local activities involving schools, libraries, the Cooperative Bank, churches, a mosque and many local centres, faith and voluntary groups.

In 2005 Ingrid was made a trustee of OWW and became treasurer in 2007. Since the 1990’s, the Newport Interfaith Group and Community House have included a OWW event in their calendar.

Some One world Week events have stood out over the years; Newport MIND ‘s One World Knees Up! – trying out dances from local cultural groups, a Women’s Group bring & share social that became the forerunner of Ashianna, Mohammed Ramzan organising a talk at Stow Hill Mosque about Muslim journeys and the Newport Interfaith Group’s young peoples' displays of faith communities’ stories about settling in Gwent.

Ingrid Wilson

20 March 2018

Ingrid Wilson explains how One World Week began: One World Week was initially a one-year national campaign in 1978, to "raise awareness, initially amongst church people, that there was life outside the church walls and to be aware of what was happening in other parts of the world”.

Report from the South Wales Argus.

Traidcraft at Community House

Traidcraft are the original fair-trade pioneers in the UK, advocating the importance of organic farming, sustainability and transparency to the lives of growers and artisans around the world.

– Traidcraft.co.uk, 2018

In Community House, Gabrielle Pagan opened the Traidcraft shop in the 1980s. Community House bought the first stock so a shop could be started in a small space in the front of the building, which had a window onto the street. As the Pagans lived in the Manse next door, when the shop was not open people could just knock on her door. Gabrielle took goods out to Church events and groups and would explain the principles of Fair trade and make sales at the same time.

Gill Curtis

06 June 2017

Gill Curtis, ESOL teacher, maintains Traidcraft today: Gill used to give talks to explain what Traidcraft did, particularly to support women.

The original Traidcraft Shop at Community House.

When the Pagans moved, Marilyn Priday took over as she had been helping Gabrielle. It was not quite so easy to organise now, as Marilyn did not live next door. Mrs Pam Durham agreed to open the shop on Tuesdays in the 1990s and Marilyn continued to order in and sell Traidcraft goods from Community House.

It was always possible to buy more cheaply in the local Supermarkets but the Traidcraft literature and attractive catalogues included stories about the producers that encouraged people to pay the extra for a fair deal for them. When Community House was redeveloped in the 1990’s, there was no room for the shop but Gill Curtis from Nant Coch Church comes regularly to Community House to sell Traidcraft goods, so the support goes on.

The Alice Foundation

In 2013 Iven Smith was visiting Christian relatives in his home region in Pakistan. He was approached by the local Christian Pastor for assistance. The village of Jaranwala is mainly Muslim but sits harmoniously within a Christian community. The parallels with Community House are clear.

Villagers in Jararwala thank supporters.

On returning, Iven and his family decided to help build a community space for education, sharing a site with a Church for Christian worship. Trinity Methodist Church, where they worship, and friends in Community House agreed to help. . Its name derives from Rakhel's mother, a midwife in Pakistan who then became a 'wise woman' helping young immigrant mums in Newport; she never forgot her Christian roots in Pakistan and always maintained a steady stream of resources and, when possible, donations. Rakhel Smith worked in Maindee for many years, both in Community House and in Maindee Primary School. Coffee 'n' Laughs as well as the Interfaith Group and Tuesday Lunch Club, have made regular contributions to the Alice Project.

In bite-sized phases they are making progress on this very large project. By 2018, they had completed four cycles of fundraising. What is most impressive is that at every stage, Muslims and Christians have come together in both countries for planning and fundraising. Both Trinity Methodist Church and Community House work on a model of having their Church at the heart of a larger community space, and this is the model which will be adopted here. The building will be open to all in the village.

Rakhel Smith

11 April 2017

Rakhel Smith, who attends Coffee ‘n’ Laughs, talks about the Alice Foundation: The Alice Foundation was named after Rakhel’s mother, who was a midwife in Pakistan. Rakhel and her husband are fundraising to building a church, school and community space in the rural Pakistani village of Alice’s birth. Community House has supported the project from the start.

Pakistan Independence Day

In 2017 Rakhel Smith organised a celebration for Pakistan Day to raise money for the Alice Foundation. Afia Ijaz also supports a school in Pakistan .It was Afia who organised the children and the singing. Local sisters Rubeena and Haseena Ali, fantastically talented local girls also helped.