Celebrating the rich diversity of culture in Wales, and the unity of humanity, was at the heart of an intercultural celebration at St David’s Uniting Church, Pontypridd, earlier this month.
The Together Stronger (Gorau Chwarae Cyd Chwarae) programme of events, from 9 to 12 March, aimed to affirm that every person – whatever their gender, ethnicity, religion, age, sexuality or status – is a much-loved child of God and should be treated as such.
The Revd Dr Phil Wall, minister of St David’s Uniting Church, said: ‘Today it can often feel like there's a rise in the suspicion of the stranger and of the politics based on fear and hate in this country, and beyond. At the celebration weekend, in and around the church, we challenged this corrosive attitude by gladly sharing good news of great joy for all people. Through sport and art, drama and dancing, worship and Welsh cakes, we came together; we laughed, cried, ate, drank and partied together. We also thanked God for making us one extravagantly loved people, diverse in culture and “Together. Stronger.”’
The opening concert saw seven local primary schools provide an evening of poetry and drama, music and art which reflected the overarching theme of ‘Together. Stronger’. Acting as compere for the event was Beverley Humphreys, Racial Justice and Intercultural Ministry advocate for the National Synod of Wales, church elder and BBC radio presenter. Contributions also came from local poet and playwright Patrick Jones.
Eric Eugene Murangwa, a former Rwandan refugee whose life was saved by his team-mates during the genocide there, brought a team to play in the inaugural intercultural 5-a-side football tournament on Saturday 11 March. Teams representing ten different nationalities – from Syria to Slovakia – and a range of religions, ethnicities and cultures, played in the tournament at Pontypridd’s rugby club’s ground.
Eric, goalkeeper of the winning team, also spoke about his experience before the screening of a film which tells his story. Called Soccer: My Saviour, the film – shown at St David’s – explains how he was inspired to found Football for Hope, Peace & Unity, using football to promote peace and unity in communities across the UK and Rwanda.
Following a sharing of traditional Welsh foods, a cultural showcase took place at the church at which Eisteddfod winners, Syrian schoolchildren, clog-dancers and hymn-singers shared the customs and traditions from their respective cultures. The day ended with a traditional Welsh ‘twmpath’ – an evening of folk dancing at Muni Arts Centre, Pontypridd, where tune and tempo transcended any language barriers!
On Sunday, the morning service took the form of an Intercultural Cymanfa Ganu; a time of prayer and praise where the hymns in Welsh, English, Arabic and Zulu all reflected the theme of the weekend.
In place of the evening service, a free family film, in English with Arabic subtitles, was screened at church. Families from South Wales, South Sudan and Syria all enjoyed the animated parable about how trust and tolerance can overcome panic and prejudice.
St David’s Uniting Church, Gelliwastad Road, Pontypridd, CF37 2BW
Minister: Revd Dr Phil Wall