Bringing religions together during the Christmas period

Mayor of Peterborough Cllr Chris Ash:

Sunday, 2nd December 2018, 3:00 pm
Updated Wednesday, 9th January 2019, 3:35 am
Christmas lights switch-on in the city centre 2017 EMN-171118-191154009

As mayor it has been an interesting time – a moving time.

It was wonderful to see many people in the centre on Armistice Day, and encouraging to see the involvement of youngsters.

The First World War may have ended 100 years ago but we must never forget the carnage caused. Some say the event glorifies war – and while it is down to each individual’s own thoughts, for me it symbolises the devastation and waste of lives and resources.

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Wars are often born out of fear and hate. We must therefore continue to work against hate and misunderstanding.

The interfaith group works hard to set up understanding between religious groups and religious ideology. That can be no bad thing. As mayor this year I took the step of not appointing a mayor’s chaplain, but instead to invite through the interfaith group different clerics to start our council meetings. As someone who does not subscribe to any one religion it is important to me in my year as mayor to embrace as many genuine faiths and beliefs as I can.

There are components of moral obligations and practices common to all faiths, and all decent people. So we must all work together and share and work on those common beliefs to benefit the city.

Just over half the world religions stem from the Middle East. That view came through (for me at least) at an event the mayoress and I attended as part of Islam celebrations last weekend. Many of the speakers, including the Bishop of Peterborough, emphasised that religious groups can, and do, work together.

So, as the season of goodwill approaches, let’s all celebrate and come together, working for an ever better city, and respect our diversity.

Brexit. I guess it is one thing that really can’t be forgotten, especially at the moment. I think for many of us who were around to vote at the first referendum were looking to a different more flexible union than we have today - I know I was.

I can’t help thinking something ain’t right when the likes of Tony Blair and John Major talk of holding another referenda, yet they could have given us the opportunity to vote on key issues such the Maastricht and Lisbon Treaties. I reckon our leaders took it for granted that all folk supported those treaties, and would continue to support ever close ties which had the potential of locking us into one single autonomous state.

I personally really cannot see how another national vote will unite us this time around. For it seems to me, whatever happens now the divisions will take a long while to heal.

It does appear from the general comment that Mrs May has failed to achieve that, and the uncertainty could well linger for far too long, and surely that will leave us in a financial mess for some time come.

For all our sakes I do hope that government and our MPs get to approve the right deal. I think we need a deal that gives a clean break so we can open up international trading, while recognising that we need to tidy up our economic and political links. I am guessing that I am not alone in not having confidence that the outcome will work out for the best any time soon.

I thought and still think that the original vote was the only way forward, and was left for far too long before it took place. I felt during the campaign we were doomed to either a highly centralised EU, or a half-baked exit.

We were, I felt, fed half truths from both sides during the campaign, It seems to me to often be the case when big business or top politicians are aiming to convince us they are right.

Now, how does my concerns over staying in the EU gel with my hopes that we should all work together.

I would say perfectly well, because working together is all about mutual partnerships which work in the strength of shared goals, and at the same time respecting our diversity .

We seem to be moving towards both in our own government’s plans, while within the EU they are blundering towards centralised control, with the potential of favouring those in control, while being detrimental to those on the edge with no chance of a good partnerships.

I fear that our national government, and even those working at county level, are foisting greater centralisation upon us and the potential to ignore local people and local issues.

I will sign off by wishing everyone season’s greetings Merry Christmas and a happy new year to one and all.