The Hyphen Project: cultural conflict to religious transition 

Welcome to the official website of The Hyphen Project.  The aim of this Paton-funded project is to investigate cultural conflicts faced by minority ethnic Christian converts in the UK, during times of life change (e.g. births, deaths, marriages), in order to better equip pastoral carers and support community reconciliation.

A Minangkabau wedding ceremony in Indonesia. Photo by Mamasamala via creative commons

Minority Ethnic Christians make up 7.3% of the Christian population in the UK, and this number is growing.  However, a lack of attention to ME voices in general means that churches are not necessarily well equipped to support those who have converted from other religions effectively during times of life change (births, deaths, marriages etc.).

Most people who convert from one religious group to another face challenges, regardless of ethnic origin.  This is particularly true if they are the only person in their family/friendship group to convert.  However there are unique challenges for first generation ME converts to Christianity in the UK, not only in leaving behind their previous religion but also often the negotiation of cultural identities/connections.  Studies have shown that pressure from family and friends to maintain certain elements of a previous religion can be intensified around times of life stage progression.  Considering the multiple layers of religious and cultural significance around many such ceremonies and rituals, this is unsurprising.  In this project, it is anticipated that different expectations concerning which aspects are ‘cultural’ (compatible with new religion) and which are ‘religious’ (incompatible with new religion) will play a role in these conflicts.

The Hyphen Project seeks to engage with the multiplicity of identities held by ME converts in the UK using empirical methods.  The stories and experiences of ME converts will be collected and framed in dialogue with the anthropology of life transition, as well as theologies of conversion and inter-religious engagement.  The ordinary theology of participant narratives will be analysed in order to identify key implications for pastoral care and mission activities within UK churches, as well as to consider pathways to reconciliation between converts, their families and communities, and their churches.

The Hyphen project

This project is funded by the William Paton Trust and runs from April 2018 for two years.

For further information or to find out how you can participate in this project, please contact Dr Grace Milton, Research Fellow in Theology and Religion, at g.milton@bham.ac.uk.

 

[Photo credit: A Minang kabau wedding ceremony in Indonesia by Mamasamala, Creative Commons]