If not now, when?
Many describe 1947 as a ‘moment of madness’ – a time in history where actions of the masses cannot be explained. We fail to remember that beneath the staggering statistics were humans, individual lives who endured unimaginable suffering. There were also many examples of communities coming together, with neighbours saving neighbours and friends saving friends at the risk of losing their own lives. The difference and divide has played out here in the British Asian community, especially as the years go on.
‘We have grown up with knowing very little about each other, learning about one another from others and from those who often know little too. Going to school I had Hindu and Sikh friends but we knew that whilst we could talk all day about food, family and friends – we avoided the topics of religion and politics. Odd because our food, family and friends were affected by them the most. We knew about bits of history and more about divide, and it’s always safer to stay on your side. What that side is, was also as confusing. We were Muslims, they were Hindus and Sikhs. We were British Asians and we dressed the same but different. Why that difference was, or how that difference should be seen – we always avoided. Better to be safe than to be sorry.’ Interview Extract for The Grand Trunk Project Journals (To be Published).
As 2017, marks #70YearsOn many will take the opportunity to mark what makes our communities different. Celebrations can often, even unintentionally create more divide and hostility amongst differing views and communities. At the Grand Trunk Project, We decided it was important to mark 1947 in a more open and inclusive way. Through building a cultural memory, we want to overcome the temporary amnesia that exists in the diaspora when it comes to Hindu, Muslim and Sikh coexistence.
That’s why we are inviting communities from across the UK to host their own events to mark the anniversary and to share memories, anecdotes and reflections which are often lost but are necessary to remember. Through rebuilding a more unifying cultural memory (as told by us the people), we want to rediscover those bridges between our faith communities that have lived historically side by side.
For many years prior to the happenings of 1947, Muslims, Hindus and Sikh have a had long history of participating in each other’s festivals, building places of worship on the same street and even sharing their spiritual poetry in each other’s worship. Now more than ever, it’s important to strengthen this cultural memory as British faith communities come together.
‘Reclaiming our narratives through sharing and learning. We have more in common than what may divide us.’ Mustafa Field, Director of Faiths Forum for London.
How are we doing this?
We knew this wasn’t going to be an easy task, but we were determined to make sure this was a nationwide campaign. We will be partnering up with a variety of faith, interfaith and other organisations to bring together 11 events throughout the summer of 2017. We invite the three faith communities and those with an interest to join in on these events, from visiting each other’s places of worship, to making food and with chai gatherings. Whilst 11 events are what we have planned, we invite any other city, community or region to host their own events. We will be happy to help you plan your event, give you ideas and promote it so please get it touch.
We have also developed an exhibition which will be touring across the U.K. The exhibition will be shedding light on #70YearsOn and will feature a photography project documenting the diversity of the faith communities. The exhibition will also feature the Postcard Project, where we want to collect as many stories to document and then share, eventually making it a permanent installation in its own right.
We have plenty of other ways for you to get involved and a line up of fantastic events, thought-provoking discussions, long cups of chai and food (lots of it (we hope!).
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