Manchester’s response to the atrocity of the Arena bomb was not to become a divided city with neighbour set against neighbour.
The Artist-in-Residence at Manchester Cathedral, Stephen Raw, was just one of the thousands who were affected by this adversity. His reaction was to invite people of all faiths to join together in painting a small part of a 5m-long banner with his words ‘Together Unafraid’.
Since March, painting sessions have been hosted in a Mosque, a Synagogue, a Gurdwara, the Cathedral and some local schools. People of all ages and of all faiths and none, came to paint, some in memory of those killed a year ago, some simply asking for tolerance of ‘others’.
Many of the contributors had their photograph taken which forms the border of the banner: a faithful record of the wonderful diversity of people that live and work in the city of Manchester.
The banner will be on display in the nave from 15 to 20 May and from 23 May to 15 June.
“At the same time as I was running the painting sessions the wicked ‘Punish a Muslim’ letter was published. I’ll not forget how the contributions, especially those at the Mosque, became even more poignant with their refusal to counter hatred with hatred.
I was struck that after you’ve stripped away the differences of how we express faith, you’re left with hospitality – wherever we went, strangers were welcomed. ‘Priceless!’”
The Very Reverend Rogers Govender, Dean of Manchester said:
“The fabulous variety of people who have contributed is a witness to the fact that while there are those who would try to divide us – as Jo Cox (murdered by an extremist) said – we actually have more in common with our neighbours. It’s no wonder that people were really keen to take part”.
Members of the public are invited to attend the unveiling of the banner on Tuesday 15 May (tomorrow) at 3.30pm in the Cathedral. Muslims, Sikhs, Jews, Christians and others will be there to see their contributions now assembled into a giant artwork.