Gazette letters: Shared faith, BAME inequality and emissions

The Day of Prayer held by Hackney Faiths Forum on May 3.

The Day of Prayer held by Hackney Faiths Forum on May 3. - Credit: Cllr Ian Rathbone

Hackney Faith Forum organised a Day of Prayer for Hackney on Sunday (May 3) – the first time anything like this has happened for many years, writes Cllr Ian Rathbone, Hackney Faith Forum.

It was an important event for the faith communities in Hackney and important for Hackney to know that we prayed together for our community.

One of the main themes of the day was hope. Hackney is a place where we find we can have more in common with others and we see the wonderful vision of people of all faiths and none, from all parts of the world, living side-by-side.

That’s so clearly seen every day in Cazenove Road where Muslims, Jews, and Christians and others live alongside one another - a lesson of hope for the world.

Faiths consider something outside of ourselves, something which is independent of our own constructed views and beliefs, something that is communal, that we all do together - sometimes with fun and other times in seriousness - that stretches across all the boundaries of class, and social standing, that helps to keep our society together through thick and thin.

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We have this common threat to our lives at the moment and as we get together as people of faith, we hold out that hope which comes from knowing more than just ourselves, that hope which we share - that we will survive, that we will learn and adapt as we have done in the past - and continue to struggle for a better future for our children as well as ourselves.

As it says in the New Testament letter to the Romans: “Because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.”

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I hope that these recent experiences will have made us more aware of the need to work together as a community here in Hackney.

In the Old Testament book of the prophet Isaiah, it says:

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”

That gives us hope and that just as many people have come to Hackney to start a new life so we can each day start a new life, putting the past behind us and looking forward in hope to the new things each day brings.

At the end of the Day of Prayer, we sang Bill Withers’ song Lean On Me: “You just call on me brother, when you need a hand. We all need somebody to lean on. I just might have a problem that you’ll understand. We all need somebody to lean on.”

My prayer was: “Bring Hope, give us reassurance in our hearts, and confidence in our thinking, and strength in our spirits to move forward as the community here in Hackney, Amen.”

We’re extremely concerned by the emerging evidence of Covid-19’s disproportionate impact on BAME Londoners, writes Cllr Muhammed Butt, London Councils’ executive member for Welfare, Empowerment and Inclusion.

Every coronavirus death is a tragedy involving individual factors that are often complex. But the ONS research points to an unmistakable trend – and these appalling figures highlight London’s longstanding health inequalities.

Boroughs are working hard to protect all vulnerable Londoners during this hugely challenging time.

We’re engaging closely with local community, faith and voluntary sector leaders to ensure that the specific needs of BAME Londoners are met. While boroughs are determined to address these inequalities, we need to see national policy changes on a range of issues – including investment in public health, housing, and welfare – that are essential for building a healthier and fairer London. The Covid-19 pandemic is a clear prompt for a shift in approach.

The Ultra Low Emission Zone and Congestion Charge were suspended at the height of the coronavirus outbreak in London when there was concern about key workers’ ability to get to work safely, writes Caroline Russell, Green Party London Assembly member.

However, with the push from government to increase activity, especially construction and manufacturing businesses, I am concerned that London will face polluted gridlock again.

The mayor must act now to reinstate the traffic and pollution-controlling ULEZ and CC to protect public health.

Bringing these back would reinforce the urgent need to shift travel from motor traffic and public transport to walking and cycling along with the newly widened pavements and temporary bike lanes.

Walking and cycling are the only ways to travel that support safe social distancing and make our city fit for the future.

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