In the wake of Windrush, we’ve had cause to ask ourselves what sort of country we really are. Are we a country which values equality, celebrates diversity promotes community cohesion, and opposes racism and intolerance? Or are we going to become a country which judges people first by what they look like and not by who they are?
In Crawley we’ve always been proud of the strength of our community, as a New Town everyone here has come from somewhere else and yet rather than becoming a source of division that diversity has given us strength.
Some 20 years ago, I joined a fantastic group, known as ‘Crawley Campaign Against Racism’. This group was established in 1976, when a young man, dying from cancer in Crawley Hospital, wrote a letter to the Observer, opposing a surge of racism in the UK. Noticing the range of ethnicities amongst the doctors and nurses caring for him in the NHS, he called for us to: ’Leave the British race and join the human race.’
We see this effort to bridge the gap between cultures in the work of other local groups too, including Crawley Interfaith Network This organisation has brought together local religious leaders and believers from across the town’s faith groups: Christian, Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Jewish and Buddhist, meeting regularly and sharing their ideas and beliefs to promote greater tolerance, understanding and harmony.
As Crawley’s first Hindu Mayor, I sought to build upon this work in promoting the message that though we may be of many faiths and creeds, we are ‘One Crawley, one community’. Projects supporting this message over recent years have included a multi-faith service on Remembrance Day, along with bringing community and religious leaders together for celebrations on Eid, Diwali, Christmas and Vaisakhi, which as Mayor I was proud to host in Crawley’s council chamber.
As a country we have a choice, we can create a future based upon the prejudices of the past or we can choose to build a better one. I know which one I’m fighting for and I hope I can count on your support.
Cllr Raj Sharma,