David Sparrow is a photographer by background, who uses computers and art to unlock understanding, not only between faith groups, but as self awareness for autistic young people and victims of domestic violence. People who don’t know Slough are sometimes snooty about it, (and The Office didn’t help) but it is fantastically inclusive, with its long tradition of hospitality, energy and rich diversity.
Among other events during the preceding months has been a joint project with Slough Libraries, “Borrow a Person.”
If you have ever wondered what someone of another faith thinks about something that’s important to you, or why anyone would want to be part of a religion at all, come along to Slough Library and, instead of borrowing a book, borrow a person instead! The idea of ‘Living Libraries’ was introduced in 2000 by the Danish Youth organisation ‘Stop the Violence’. It has been developed in a number of countries and has been gaining popularity in English libraries. This is the first time that sessions have been offered in Slough. The ‘living books’ to be borrowed will be ordinary members of local faith communities, who will be happy to discuss their religion and traditions, faith and spirituality, beliefs and experiences and any other subject besides.This was an occasion for hard mutual questioning as well as good intentions. From my own table, I was struck by two hard truths:
- Some UK politicians take a line that ring fences foreign policy (Iraq/Afghanstan, Israel/Palestine) from issues of community cohesion in the UK. Pile lots of money into the latter and maybe people won’t mind about the former. This is an illusion.
- This event was locally initiated and organised, growing from work going on anyway, but earnest Government attempts to promote community cohesion, especially those that seem to be targeted at Muslims, are not appreciated for the lovely things they doubtless are. People don't like being having money thrown at them on the premise that they are somehow the problem, and especially not if the sauce it’s served up with tastes of secularised religious illiteracy.