- Religion in Birmingham
:"This article is about
Religionin Birmingham, England."
Modern-day Birmingham's cultural diversity is reflected in the wide variety of religious beliefs of its citizens. 79.2% of residents identified themselves as belonging to a particular
faithin the 2001 Census, while 12.4% stated they had no religion and a further 8.4% did not answer the question.
Although there were no large Roman settlements in the immediate area of modern-day Birmingham, there was a
fort, Metchley Fortnear the site of the University of Birmingham, and Icknield Streetruns via this site through the western suburbs of the city. The Romano-Britishpopulation undoubtedly worshipped at pagan temples such as that excavated at Coleshill a few miles outside the modern city boundary, which was possibly dedicated to Minervaor Mars[http://www.arch-ant.bham.ac.uk/wmrrfa/seminar3/Iain%20Ferris.doc] , and that identified at Letocetumwhere Icknield Street crosses Watling Streetbetween Birmingham and Lichfield, also apparently dedicated to Minerva [http://www.roman-britain.org/places/letocetum.htm] .
In the later years of the Roman period,
Christianityarrived in the area, although there is little evidence of Christian worship in the immediate Birmingham area at this time. However, when Anglo-Saxon tribes conquered what was to become England in the 5th century, they brought their paganbeliefs with them. Again there is little firm evidence for Anglo-Saxon worship in the area - perhaps because the Anglo-Saxons worshipped in sacred places outdoors rather than in buildings.
The Conversion of Mercia
Mercia, the Anglo-Saxon Kingdom in which Birmingham was situated, remained pagan for some decades after Saint Augustine had begun the conversion of England. However, under King Penda of Mercia, himself a pagan, Christian missionaries from Lindisfarnewere allowed to preach in the kingdom (around 653) and following Penda's death, the rulers of Mercia became Christian and a Diocese of Mercia was created in 656. Part of this became the Diocese of Lichfieldin 669 under Saint Chad. (Chad's relics were enshrined at Lichfield Cathedraluntil the Reformationafter which they were kept in hiding until they were transferred to the new Catholic cathedral in Birmingham in 1841 [http://www.catholic-ew.org.uk/cn/96/960614b.htm] ).
The Medieval Church
parishchurch, St Martin in the Bull Ring, has been the site of a church since at least the 12th century, though the earliest parts of the present building date back only to around 1290. Within the modern city boundary, there are a number of other churches which date from the medievalperiod (although many, like St Martin's, were substantially rebuilt in the 19th century). They represent the original medieval parishes of the area, which were much larger than the modern parishes of the densely populated city.
In the medieval Diocese of Lichfield could be found
Church of Saints Peter and Paul, Astonin Aston, [http://students.bugs.bham.ac.uk/buscr/ringing_history.asp St Bartholomew's] in Edgbaston, St. Mary's Church, Handsworth, St Peter's in Harborne, [http://www.stgilessheldon.org/ St Giles'] in Sheldon and [http://www.htsc.org.uk/ Holy Trinity] in Sutton Coldfield, whilst [http://www.crsbi.ac.uk/ed/wa/north/ St Laurence's] in Northfield, [http://www.kingsnorton.org.uk/thechurches/stnicolas/ St Nicolas'] in Kings Nortonand St Edburgha's in Yardley were in the Diocese of Worcester. In addition to these parish churches, there was St John's chapel of easeat Deritendfounded in 1381 (demolished by 1961), which, though only a short stroll from St Martin's, was in the parish of Aston. Householders in Deritend and Bordesleyhad the unusual right to elect their own chaplain - a right they continued to enjoy until 1890 when a specific act of parliamentwas required to regularise the situation [http://icbirmingham.icnetwork.co.uk/expats/pastpres/tm_objectid=14095950&method=full&siteid=50002&headline=why-trouble-brews-in-old-deritend-name_page.html] .
The other main religious organisations in medieval Birmingham were a
prioryfounded in the early 13th century known as the Hospitalof St Thomas (of Canterbury) in the area of today's Priory Queensway, and the Guildof the Holy Cross established in 1392, whose guildhall was on New Street.
According to the 2001 Census, 59.1% of Birmingham's residents identify themselves as
Christian, a smaller percentage than the England and Walesaverage of 71.8%.
Birmingham is the see of the
AnglicanDiocese of Birmingham which has its cathedralat St. Philip's.
Following the Reformation, Catholicism was effectively outlawed in
England, though there remained a number of recusants throughout this period. Several masshouses were established in the district in the 17th century, notably at Oscott around 1679 and in Birminghamitself on what is now called Masshouse Queensway in 1687, although this chapel was burnt down by an anti-Catholic mob the following year. After the process of Catholic Emancipationbegan in 1778, a Catholic church dedicated to Saint Peterwas built on Broad Street in 1786 and Oscott College was founded as a seminaryin 1794.
When St. Chad's was begun in 1841 to a design by
Augustus Pugin, it became the first Catholic cathedral in England since the Reformation. In the same period, Oscott College moved to a new building, also partly designed by Pugin, at New Oscott, and John Henry Newman, probably the most significant Catholic figure associated with Birmingham, founded the Birmingham Oratory. which moved to its present site in Edgbaston in 1852, and its associated Oratory School(1859). When the Catholic hierarchy was restored in 1850, Birmingham was made a dioceseand the Catholic population of the town and surrounding district continued to grow throughout this period with a number of churches and religious houses being established.
The growth in Catholic numbers in the 19th Century was fuelled partly by Irish immigration, and a mix of anti-
poperyand xenophobialed to some confrontations in the town, notably the Murphy Riotsof 1867 [http://www.victorianweb.org/religion/Murphy_Riots.html] . However, there was relatively little strife and Catholics in Birmingham began to be accepted by the establishment of the town. Birmingham became an archdiocesein 1911, and the Catholic population continued to grow along with the city, helped by further waves of immigration, primarily from Ireland, though Polish, Italian, Ukraininan and Vietnamese immigrants have all added to the diversity of the Catholic population.
Today the number of Catholics in the archdiocese (which extends beyond Birmingham to take in the rest of the West Midlands,
Warwickshire, Worcestershire, Staffordshireand Oxfordshire) has begun to fall from a peak circa 1980 (see here [http://www.catholic-hierarchy.org/diocese/dbrmn.html] ). Nonetheless, Catholicism continues to play a significant role in the religious life of Birmingham, not least through the large number of voluntary aided primary and secondary schools in the city and Newman University Collegein Bartley Greenwhich trains Catholic teachers.
The Orthodox Churches
Dormition of the Mother of God and St Andrew, Birminghamis a Greek Orthodox cathedral under the jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Constantinople (Fener, Istanbul), via the Archdiocese of Thyateira and Great Britain(based in Craven Hill, London).
The Greek Orthodox Church of The Holy Trinity and St Luke is a Greek Orthodox church under the jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Constantinople (Fener,
Istanbul), via the Archdiocese of Thyateira and Great Britain.
There is a Serbian Orthodox church in
Bournville, one of the few purpose-built Orthodox churches in the United Kingdom. It is dedicated to the Holy Prince Lazar, who died at the Battle of Kosovoin 1389.
0.2% of Birmingham's residents identify themselves as
Jews. This is lower than the average figure for England and Wales of 0.5%.
Birmingham's developing industry attracted Jewish settlers as early as 1730 and there was already a
synagoguein a private house in the area of today's New Street Station in 1791, when a purpose-built synagogue was constructed in Hurst Street. The Singers Hill Synagoguein Blucher Street, a Grade II* listed buildingwhich is still used for worship today, was built in 1856 [http://www.singershill.com/index.html] .
The Jewish population of the city grew in the late 19th century (from 730 in 1851 to 2,360 in 1871) with the influx of Jews from Eastern Europe which led to the founding of two further Orthodox synagogues. In the
interwar period, a vibrant Jewish community existed in the area around Holloway Head in the city centre and Jews also settled in the Edgbastonand Moseleyareas. This period also saw the founding of the city's Liberal synagogue in Sheepcote Street.
Redevelopment of the Holloway Head area after
World War IIand a general trend of movement to the suburbs led to Birmingham's Jews becoming more thinly spread across the city. In the same period, however, a voluntary aided school named after King David was established in Moseley, a successor to the city's previous Hebrew school which dated back to the mid-19th century. In recent years, the community has declined in number from around 6,000 in the 1930s to 2,343 in 2001. A number of Jewish families have emigrated to Israeland others are believed to have moved to the larger communities in Londonand Manchester.
In the 2001 census 16.8% of the Birmingham population identified themselves as
Muslim. This is significantly higher than the average for Englandand Walesof 3.0%.
The Muslim community in Birmingham is considered one of the most diverse after
Londonwith a wide spectrum of people originally from Africa, Eastern Europe, Southern Europe, Western Asiaand other Asian countries. Although the earliest Muslims to arrive in Birmingham and England generally are said to have been from Yemenand the regions of Indianow known as Bangladesh, it is the Kashmiricommunity from Mirpurin Pakistanwho form the largest group of migrated Muslims. The majority of the Muslims in Birmingham continue to be born abroad as more and more migrantsarrive into the city although the number of British-born Muslims and those who convertto the faith are said to be near 50% of the total Muslim population. More recent Muslim settlers hail from Somalia, Kosovoand Algeriaand neighbouring nations.
mosquein Birminghamwas the conversion of a terraced house in Balsall Heathbut later a grand project was undertaken by Muslim with the development of the Birmingham Central Mosquein Belgrave Middleway, Highgate, which was conceived in the 1960s and then opened in 1975 to great acclaim as the largest mosque in Western Europeand has since cemented its role as one of Britain's largest and most prominent Islamic centres.
There are currently just over 200 mosques in the city, including purpose built places of worship, converted warehouses, Churches and cinemas as well as former homes, schools and centres. The other prominent mosques and Islamic centres in the city include the
Central Jamia Masjid Ghamkol Sharif(located on Poet's Cornerin Golden Hillock Road, Sparkhill), Green Lane Mosque (a former grand library and now modern refurbished Islamic centre and mosque in Green Lane, Small Heath) which is the headquarters of Jamiat Ahl-e-Hadith UKand the 'Amaanah' or BordesleyCentre in Camp Hillrun by the Muath Welfare Trustand recently renovated with a generous government grant to continue to provide educational and spiritual services to the large citywide Muslim community. The Bordelsey Centre was established by the city's Yemenicommunity.
Birmingham is home to numerous Islamic
schoolsand has a rich array of Muslim bookstoresand libraries including the exhibition centres of the Islamic Propagation Centre International(IPCI), one of the country's longest running Islamic da'wah(or propagation) organisations. The city also has a ShariahCouncil run by the Birmingham Mosque Trust.
Islam in the United Kingdom)
According to the 2001 census, 1.0% of Birmingham residents identify themselves as
Hindu, The average figure in England and Wales 0.9%. Hindusmainly originate from the Punjab and Gujaratregions of India as well as other regions and countries such as Sri Lankaand Mauritius. Many also came from East Africa.
The first temple in the West Midlands, the
Geeta Bhawantemple is located in the Handsworth area of the city on Heathfield Road. Furthermore, one of the largest mandirsin Europe, the Tividale Tirupathy Balaji Templeis located just outside the city in Tividalein the borough of Sandwell.
There are concentrations of Hindus in the Handsworth and Sparkhill sections of the city.
1.4% of the population of Birmingham identify themselves as
Sikh. The average figure for England and Wales is 0.6%.
The Sikh presence in Birmingham is largely due to immigration in the 1950s and 1960s, although there were Sikhs living in the city before and during World War II. The main organisation for Sikhism in Birmingham is the [http://www.sikhcouncil.org/home.htm Council of Sikh Gurdwaras in Birmingham] founded in 1989 which represents the city's
One of the most prominent Sikh events in Birmingham is the annual celebration of
Vaisakhiin Handsworth, where many of the city's Sikhs live. The celebrations in 1999 marking the 300th anniversary of the founding of the Khalsawere the largest Vaisakhi celebrations outside of the Punjab.
0.3% of the city's residents identified themselves as
Buddhist, which is the same as the national (England and Wales) average.
There are a number of pagan groups active in the Birmingham area. The 2002 census gives a figure of 3775 pagans active in the West Midlands.
Birmingham's multifaith environment has brought together a number of religious groups and denominations.
Birmingham Citizens, formed in 2004 is a community coalition in the city, open to individuals and organisations of all faiths and none, and is made up of representatives from all of the larger places of worship in Birmingham [http://society.guardian.co.uk/societyguardian/story/0,7843,1475418,00.html] . The Birmingham Quaker-Muslim Peace and Social Justice Groupwas formed in 2003 and meets regularly at the Birmingham Central Mosque [http://www.centralmosque.org.uk/?page=news&news_id=mosque_2004-10-20_0001] . An inner city coalition between Christians and Muslims formed the Saltley Gate Peace Groupin 2003, based at the Saltley Methodist Church.
* [http://www.british-history.ac.uk/source.asp?pubid=104 Stephens, W.B. (ed.) (1964) "A History of the County of Warwickshire: Volume VII The City of Birmingham". Victoria County History]
* [http://www.brijnet.org/birmingham/ Jewish Birmingham]
* [http://www.birmingham.gov.uk/GenerateContent?CONTENT_ITEM_ID=22215&CONTENT_ITEM_TYPE=0&MENU_ID=10277 Birmingham City Council - Jewish Birmingham]
* [http://www.birminghamblackhistory.com/the_sikh_council History of the Sikh Council]
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