Dialogue MA Placement Week 4: London Trip

On Monday morning I woke up early in the hope of some sunny weather, but unfortunately it was a mixture of drizzly rain and arctic wind. Today we were going to go on a London trip with the Dialogue Society and even though the thought of returning to my warm bed was tempting, I got ready and set out for what the day had in store for me.

“If you want to practice and understand dialogue you need to know the history,” said Dr Angus Lockyer from SOAS University. He was a nice man, arrived on time and had a typical English manner. He was about to take us on a London trip, a historical journey around London.

We began to walk through the old walls of London city, which was changed by the rulers of each period from the Romanians to current day. A picture of history and modernity appeared in front of me and I found myself in an ocean of contradiction, the old and new, rich and poor as he explained the vast history behind those walls.

First we visited St Katherine bay, where luxurious yachts were parked. Dr Lockyer began to explain the history of that place and I imagined myself living during the 16th century. Since then, London has experienced many changes. Dr Lockyer explained that it is possible to see the history if you peel one layer off at a time.

Many people from different parts of the world had settled in East London and Dr Lockyer told us about the tensions that occurred as a result of migration. For example when Chinese people came in the 19th century the local people gave them an extremely unwelcome reception. I asked whether this was because of market competition, Dr Lockyer said that it was more to do with intolerance towards newcomers. Migrants did not eat like locals, they did not talk like locals, they did not dress like locals and they had different values, this was not tolerated. Another example is the ‘battle of the cable street’ in 1936. This battle was initiated by the British Union of Fascists led by Oswald Mosley. The Jewish community, the Irish, anarchists, socialists and communists all grouped together to march against them.

On the walls of White chapel we saw imprints of dialogue between the Christians and the Jews. This chapel is known for its priests who contributed to Christian-Jewish dialogue. Not far from White chapel there is another building which was used by all Abrahamic religions and at present stands as an Islamic mosque. This building indicates that God cannot be imprisoned to these four corners of this multi Abrahamic religious building but in the hearts of believers.

We shortly after entered a street where many Indian and Bangladeshi restaurants greeted us with wide open doors spreading appetizing smells through the air. I found myself in South Asia and remembered a beautiful saying of Rumi “A westerner lives in the West. An oriental comes to visit. The westerner is a stranger to the oriental, but who is the real stranger? Is not the oriental a stranger to the entire western world?” So am I.

This is what I really love about London a vivid, vibrant, multiracial city. We ended up in Hoxton square tired but excited and brimmed with new information. Dr Lockyer advised that if want to see London firstly we should “not take the bus or underground” and secondly should “get lost” in London. “You will see more of London,” he said.

Having visited a spectrum of intriguing historic places in London I think that the peaceful co-existence of the communities in this multicultural city depends on those who have a dosage of humanity, love, compassion, tolerance, respect for openness and acceptance of the other in their otherness and dialogue in their hearts and minds. In the words of Jelaleddin Rumi “Still, this whole world is but a house, no more. Whether we go from this room to that room or from this corner to that corner, are we still not in the same house?”

*The ideas expressed in this column are solely the opinions of the author and not necessarily of the Dialogue Society

Jakhangir Sharipov

Jakhangir Sharipov

Jakhangir is currently completing a 10 week internship at the Dialogue Society as part of his Dialogue Studies MA at Keele University.Jakhangir graduated from Zhezkazgan University and holds a BA in English Language.

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