Ealing is our shared and collective home, and we are proud that it is made up of communities so diverse that we have come to be representative of the globe at large. The most recent census tells us that 60% of us were born overseas. That we speak over 170 languages.
So, when disasters and conflicts happen abroad, for some of us they can feel incredibly close. At the moment, for those of us with connections to Israel and Gaza through faith, family, language and culture, the reverberations of war stir feelings of grief, loss and mourning. For those of us with direct and lived experience of war, the current situation may bring back a range of emotions that others cannot even begin to imagine.
For our children and young people, who may be experiencing harrowing images on their television screens and their mobile phones, the situation will be especially troubling. As their young and developing minds search for answers, they will realise the harsh reality that at present, those answers are not easy to find. That generations before them have also failed to find those answers too.
The scenes we are witnessing from Israel and Gaza are heartbreaking. Having spent the last few weeks now meeting with representatives from Jewish, Christian and Muslim communities, and speaking with Israelis and Palestinians, it is clear that there is a depth of distress and fear for the future that perhaps we have not seen before. Everyone of every background that I have spoken to is united by a belief in the sanctity of human life and the need for the conflict to end, and end quickly.
In situations like these, the first duty of the council is to community cohesion and safety. Whilst the stance our national leaders take on the international stage is not within our control; we have absolute discretion over how we act and behave locally. As a council, and as a community.
So as a council, we’ve spent time meeting with impacted communities. We are working with our faith organisations to ensure both people and buildings are as secure as they can be. We are working with our schools to support students, parents and teachers to have difficult conversations and to cope with and express emotions without causing harm to ourselves or others. We are supporting the right of people to assemble, protest and express opinions within the bounds of safety and of the law. We are working with the police to respond to hate crime.
Unfortunately, the last few weeks have seen an increase in both antisemitism and islamophobia. Whilst we can take some comfort from the fact that Ealing has not seen the kind of increases in racially and religiously aggravated crimes that we have seen in other parts of the country, a single hate crime is a hate crime too many.
Perpetrators of hate crime are a corrosive and damaging exception to the values of tolerance, solidarity and mutual respect that Ealing is rightly so proud to uphold. We will do everything in our power to ensure that they are caught and punished.
At moments like this, each and every one of us has to summon the emotional maturity and strength to have empathy and understanding for our friends, neighbours and colleagues, whatever their backgrounds or beliefs.
Armistice Day & Remembrance Sunday
On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, at Compiegne in France, after years of devastation and division, warring armies declared an armistice – a ceasefire – that ended the fighting and eventually led to the Paris Peace Conference and a formal return to peace. Whilst Europe would once again return to conflict a few short decades later, we mark this moment with gratitude.
All wars must come to an end. The costs they inflict must be commemorated and remembered.
On Saturday and Sunday, we will come together for our annual acts of remembrance.
Please join us on the steps of Ealing Town Hall on Saturday at 11am for our minutes silence. On Sunday, Acts of Remembrance will take place at our War Memorials at Ealing Green, Greenford Town Hall and The Green in Southall. We will remember them.