Love Thy Neighbour

Mahabba – that’s Arabic for “love”.

Peter Baker | 17:04, Monday, 28 November 2011

I only know because as part of our recent weekend called "Know Your Neighbour", we signed up with other Cardiff churches to relate to and understand the large South East Asian community of Cathays.

My office fronts the street side of Monthermer Road. In the houses opposite live many Muslim families. On Fridays the road sees a procession of people making their way back and forward to the make-do mosque which occupies the old "Shaw’s" drapers' warehouse.  Finding a place to park on a Friday at 1pm is more difficult than a Sunday for the locals. 

Muslims have been living in Cardiff for more than 130 years, making it home to one of the oldest Muslim communities in the UK. What I didn’t know myself was that the first mosque in the UK was built here and also that the capital is the hub of the largest British-born Somali population.

Of course there are also thousands of students in the Cathays area, plus a surprisingly large and often hidden number of elderly people (some of whom attend the weekday Luncheon Club we organise in partnership with the City Council). 

I took the funeral of one of these senior citizens last month and was staggered to learn that she had lived in the same house for 99 years. She was born and grew up there. She married and had her own children there - never once moving away. She was even a lollipop lady, aged 75, for the school just down the road where she herself had once been a pupil. Sadly, with the breakdown of community and the rise of social mobility, that kind of story is heard less and less.

I did hear of a very different but rather amusing incident from a parent of one of our young people. A gang of them from the church went knocking on doors for Halloween, 'treating' as opposed to 'tricking' the neighbours. The idea was to give presents, like sweets, to local residents as opposed to playing tricks on them. It went down very well apparently, perhaps too well at one establishment. For one of the youngsters came back home and asked her father "Dad, what’s a brothel?"

You see it is amazing who lives along our streets and what goes on in our neighbourhoods, once we make the effort to get out of our comfort zones to understand and relate to it. And yes, that isn’t always straightforward. Building real community never is. But this unique and important element of social capital is vital to our sense of well being. And it’s not something which government initiatives and public money alone can generate. It takes lots of people, often volunteers, and time, frequently at a premium in our busy lives, to create the sort of world where everyone is valued and has a place in the scheme of things. 

What drives our mission as a church? The two great Commandments in the Judaeo – Christian tradition. Love God with all your heart and love your neighbour as yourself. Love. Mahabba.  

And if we are committed to the Great Commission then we must take the immediate community around Highfields seriously. It is filled with students, internationals (like the Peruvian family who have just started attending) and elderly people, many of whom have not heard the gospel or seen it’s values demonstrated. 

We have been placed, not by accident, by God to reach this community and in doing so to love our neighbours.

If you want to join our Dalton Street Luncheon Club team, our Internationals Ministry or our school clubs programme, simply contact the office and we will hook you up with the right people. 

This Christmas might be a great time to say hello for the first time to some of your neighbours – to the glory of God. If you’d like to invite them along to Carols by Candlelight, we’ve got free invitation cards, or you could email them the link

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