West Ham Archdeacon Elwin Cockett says Middle East events can’t threaten Newham’s diversity


- Credit: Archant

The news from the Middle East in recent weeks has been disturbing. When we see pictures of the children of Gaza, or of refugees fleeing from ISIS in Iraq, it is right to feel deep sympathy for those who are suffering, and natural to feel anger towards those who are causing it.

It is good to care about injustice and to want to do something about it. To collect money for the innocent victims in Gaza and Iraq and to lobby government is commendable.

What we must avoid, though, is blaming members of any ethnic minorities in our own community for the suffering caused by others far away.

Back in 1936, the people of east London became famous for standing against the march of the racist Blackshirts – fascists – who were seeking to march through an area where Jewish businesses and residents predominated.

It wasn’t only Jewish people who resisted the racists, but Christians, Communists and many other East Enders too.

In recent years, racist groups have again tried to spread hate in east London, often in areas where Asian businesses and residents are most visible.

I am proud to say that, as in 1936, that message of hate has been consistently rejected by people of all religions and none and of all ethnic backgrounds.

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Thankfully, our community is one where people want to live together in harmony, whether they are black or white, Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Hindu, or whatever.

That rejection of racism is not seen everywhere. It has been disturbing to hear of attacks on Jewish people in parts of Europe, and of similar attacks on Muslims, too.

The response of some has been to seek to create “no-go areas” where others are not welcome. That cannot be the answer, any more than giving in to the Blackshirts would have been right in 1936. And it certainly isn’t the answer for east London.

As I have said before in these pages, one of Newham’s great strengths is the rich diversity of the people. The last thing we need is to allow events in the Middle East to threaten that. More Elwin Cockett

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