Trust: working with diaspora communities

Trust: working with diaspora communities

I’ve been thinking about trust… I have an interesting relationship with a Persian lady here on a bridging visa, with her husband and two teenage sons. She initially rang the church office on a Sunday afternoon, about two years ago, greatly distressed. She wanted to attend a service, but we don’t have an afternoon/evening one. My husband handed me the phone to speak with her. The upshot of it was he and I both went out to a local park to meet her and pray with her.

We met a few times to pray and read the Bible, and she made some comments at times that suggested she was very wary of who she trusted. For example, she said she’d had experiences of Christians being too effusive/enthusiastic (? not sure if that’s the right word) – she said at one point that if she rang one Christian she knows to ask for prayer, that Christian would ask for more detail than she wanted to give, and would want to follow-up more… which struck me as a little odd because right from the start she herself has given a lot of information to me without me having to ask or say anything!

I had asked if she wanted to connect with some other Persian friends I have here, and/or some local Aussies who work among that diaspora community. She was very adamant that she didn’t want contact with other Persians. She also obviously doesn’t trust the diaspora community here, I guess because she doesn’t know who is who and who might say something to whom. She doesn’t have strong or positive relationships with her family back in her country, so not sure how that plays into things. I’ve heard that from others too – that their Persian friends don’t want to connect with other Persians (Christian or otherwise). She’s a very strong, independent-minded lady.

She gradually stopped meeting with me and only called me sporadically, usually just to ask for prayer. Last week she rang, completely out of the blue (I’d not heard from her for about 6 months, though I often send her a short sms to say hi and let her know I’m praying for her), again in tears. I prayed with her and we ended the call. She rang back after a few minutes to say that the situation we’d prayed about had resolved – thank you God! We then went for a walk together a couple of days later, and she made the comment that I was the only one she thought of that she could ring and trust with the information, knowing I wouldn’t judge her.

Another friend working with diaspora communities added her learning: Whilst it’s true that in the west, Christians have a wonderful opportunity to be the ones who can meet the needs of/provide the help new Muslim arrivals to the neighbourhood seek, I also see community groups springing up – Somali Women’s group/Sudanese Women’s collective etc. Led by 2 or 3 women who came to the UK say 10 to 15 years ago and have worked the system out they are now in a position of trust where such support is needed. My Sudanese friend is in this position and she takes it very seriously. It is a responsibility and an honour for her.

Last week we talked together about the damage that gossip brings with it, and she agreed that it destroys trust. When I asked her who she would go to for personal, emotional support she was clear that she would not go to her community. She would pray and seek solace in her religion. She is teaching her 3 girls that it must all be kept within the family.
She and her husband are professional people but both found themselves in between jobs at the start of Covid and so in a very difficult financial position. I tentatively offered her the possibility of receiving a weekly food parcel from our church café which began to offer this service to the many families around us who are on low incomes. She jumped at the chance and was simultaneously relieved that this information would be kept confidential between us; a lesson for me in noticing what people may have shared with you before and how it might be affecting their current situation in terms of support needs.

A question: what builds and what breaks trust in your community of women?

© When Women Speak… March 2023

This blog is part of a conversation among practitioners on the topic of trust


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