Wednesday, 7 November 2007

Diwali in Wellingborough

Please view my new photo album: Diwali in Wellingborough 3-11-07.

This event took place in the town centre last Saturday with all sections of the local community present - young and old, those of Indian origin and those more local. Those born abroad and those born in Wellingborough. What a wonderful, diverse, community we have!

But what a struggle for recognition that has had to waged over the past 30 years against the conservative and narrow-minded Wellingborough establishment that never wanted this to happen; and for those of “other” origins, or of a different colour, or religion, it has been an uphill battle all the way to be recognised as full and equal citizens deserving of dignity and respect.

It is a great pity that the lessons of history never (sometimes?) seem to be learnt, as we attack and vilify arrivals in Wellingborough from the new countries of the European Union. Yet again the old arguments reappear in new (and some not so new) forms - "we are overcrowded, or will be in .... (add whatever year you want!)"; "Why don't they speak English?"; "they are taking our houses, our jobs .... (add to the, list if you wish!)". The language of division and conflict is clear: us and them; you, me; friends, enemies; ours, yours; hatred and division.

If politicians were honest (I think some are of course!) they would say that the movement of peoples around the globe has always occurred throughout human history and will continue to do so. The human spirit - of adventure, seeking a better life for oneself and family or community - will continue for as long as human-kind exists. The walls and fences are never high enough, the seas or waters never wide enough; the armed border guards never frightening enough; the criminals gangs too well organised - to stop the inevitable movements (in and out).

The real challenge for today, and the rest of the 21st century, is how do we mange this inevitable movement? Do we welcome people and have robust and well-funded programmes to ensure integration? Do we treat people as equal and valued citizens, or do we label them and stir up hatred and hostility against them? Do we challenge unfair stereotypes or do we actively and cynically propagate them for narrow and sectarian political advantage? Do we campaign against exploitation (and those that seek to profit from it), or do we blame the exploited for their plight?

Let's not repeat the mistakes, failures and conflicts of the past and look to the future with confidence and in a spirit of openness and humanity.

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