My name is Michael and I have recently started as a research volunteer for Link Up (UK). I studied Modern History and Politics at the University of Manchester and graduated a few years ago and am now currently living in Essex. I am passionate about research and the positive role diversity has had on our society. Therefore I was hugely excited to be given the opportunity to work on the Family Tree project and to try and put these ideas and thoughts into practice.
The area I am researching for the Family Tree project is faith. As a Christian this is quite a personal topic for me, but one that I find very fascinating. Faith has clearly had an impact on me in my own life and this was one of my main motivations in looking at this particular area. I am always intrigued at how people use their faith and beliefs in everyday life. This is something I feel I have a personal attachment to and care deeply about.
To date I have found the challenge of researching these different stories quite enthralling. There have been some stories which have been easier to find and have more information and there are other stories which have required a greater deal of research and more patience. Currently my research has taken me to many different sites and has opened many potential avenues.
The history of faith in Newham is vast and has changed greatly over the years as the characteristics of the area have changed. From the early settlement programmes in the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century to the setting up of the Coloured Men’s Institute, faith and men and women of faith have definitely made their impact in Newham. Although historically much of the work in this area has been of a Christian nature, this should not downplay the impact of other faith groups and the positive work they too have contributed to Newham.
The impact of the Jewish community who came to settle in Newham at the end of the nineteenth century is still seen in the area today. Other examples of prominent faith figures who have contributed to community life in Newham include Mahinder Singh Pujji and Gandhi. Mahinder Singh Pujji was a Sikh fighter in World War 2 who made history as one of the only Sikh’s to fly an RAF jet, whereas Gandhi enjoyed a prominent meeting with Charlie Chaplin in the area drawing national coverage. In recent times the influence Islam has had on the local community can be more evidently seen. As the area has become more diverse in recent years, the impact of Islam has grown with many mosques and local groups contributing to community life through many different activities and organisations.
Faith is something that can affect people in many different ways. The influence of faith in an individual’s life can be shown in many ways as all these different stories show. Today faiths of all varieties and kinds can often be criticised for a number of different reasons. Therefore I am pleased to be able to research the more positive side to this area and to show how people from all different faiths and backgrounds can play a productive and vital role in society and how they have achieved this in Newham.