Last week at The Hawth, we saw the launch of the first-ever Crawley-specific Faith, Belief and Culture Guide. It is the result of a collaboration between Crawley Interfaith Network and Crawley Borough Council as well as a number of other groups who have contributed. The document can be viewed on the Council’s website – www.crawley.gov.uk.
The guide highlights the remarkable religious and cultural diversity of Crawley and contains information on more than 40 groups across the town. I applaud everyone involved in the creation of this valuable source of reference. That such commitment and energy exists must surely contribute toCrawley’s justifiable reputation as a largely harmonious place where, in our diversity, we feel at ease with each other and engaged with each other.
Since becoming Leader of the Council, I have been most grateful for the hospitality shown to me by various faith groups across the town and for the educational insight that they have so freely offered. However, I expect that whatever I might have learnt is still somewhat distant from me actively pursuing a faith. I sense that just the study of any faith cannot fully match the experience of its embrace.
As a secularist who believes in the separation of state from faith, I support and uphold the rights of everyone to freedom of religious worship. Our varied faiths and cultures make a key contribution to the vibrancy ofCrawley. They provide an important perspective for community leadership which might otherwise become bland and sterile if its only source were the policy books of the major political parties. Our rich religious and cultural base demonstrates that integration and cohesion do not require the abandonment of core beliefs and values. Rather, it is the celebration of our differences that can help bind us together.
I recently attended an interfaith event that discussed the importance of charity and supporting those less fortunate than ourselves. This was an example of much commonality of thought across different faiths and it was inspirational to see the promotion of such selflessness, which is also rightly an expected hallmark for those of us engaged in public life.
I was struck by the difference between these core values and the greed that we so often see reported in the national media. Thinking about the top personalities in entertainment, sport and the city, how much do these people really need to earn? It is no good arguing that they only have a top-earning career of a few years. These people often receive more money in one year than most of us in do in a life time.
Here is an example of where a reference back to faith prompts us to make a sound judgement as to what is reasonable and what is plain excess. With the right judgements in place, we can all do more to help those most in need.
Councillor Bob Lanzer, Leader of Crawley Borough Council
3rd November 2008