An Austrian Abroad

An Austrian Abroad

Tuesday 3rd November was another exciting day in the life of Near Neighbours as we were fortunate enough to be joined by Austria’s Foreign Minister, Sebastian Kurz and DCLG Minister for Faith, Baroness Susan Williams of Trafford. .

This visit was organised so that Sebastian Kurz, who is responsible for integration in Austria, could learn about the successful work of our programme to bring people together and support ongoing neighbourhood transformation.

The visit was to the Kings Centre in Southall, where our West London Coordinator, Becky Brookman, is based. It was there that Sebastian Kurz and Baroness Williams met with our small grant funded Craft and Conversation project before they went on to a round table discussion with local faith leaders.

Once the two ministers had taken some time to chat to the local women that were taking part in the project, we moved in to the church hall to hear from each them.

Sebastian Kurz spoke about the diversity in Austria and how important the language classes – like Craft and Conversation – are to integration. He also commented on how impressive it was to see the results Near Neighbours is getting in gathering people of different faiths and ethnicities together and supporting them to settle into communities.

Faith leaders that were listening to the Foreign Minister speak were then invited to talk about how the work they are doing and how they have been uniting their communities. We heard from the Sikh community, from the Muslim community, from the Somali community.

After the event Minister Kurz commented,

“Successful integration is vital for any country.  It is a major focus of my government and that’s why I’m eager to see examples of successful projects which bring people from every background together.

“It was clear to see that the faith leaders I met today in Southall are bound by their shared values and the discussions I had with them will certainly give me food for thought.”

Meanwhile, Baroness Williams also took the time comment on the event,

“Projects like the one here in Southall help bring people together right across our country. That’s why over the past three years we’ve been able to support over a thousand like it.

“Every class helps neighbours in diverse areas get to know one another’s culture and recognise and cherish the shared British values that bind us.

“These fantastic projects have been met with great enthusiasm across the country. Now I hope they will inspire another country too.”

To see pictures from the visit, click here

Author: Mr Tim Burton-Jones

Date: 04 November 2015