SIR PETER BOTTOMLEY: All together now and in the future

Sir Peter Bottomley at the Islamic Exhibition at Worthings Assembly Hall
Sir Peter Bottomley at the Islamic Exhibition at Worthings Assembly Hall

The villages around Worthing and the communities in West Sussex’s largest town include a great variety of friendly people. We come together naturally. Let us be proud of our achievements.

Churches and faith groups know each other and cooperate. The political groups respect each other and cooperate. Without abandoning particular tradition and belief, leaders and followers are happy to work together, either to help individuals in trouble or to share initiatives for the general good of all.

Faith and politics notably come together in the annual local Holocaust Memorial meeting. I pay tribute to the town hall staff who help to bring all together. Consider also the benefits from the practical vision and the cooperation that has followed the creation and the continued effectiveness of the Worthing Churches Homeless Projects.

I admire the ways that the St Barnabas House hospice charity and the Queen Alexandra Hospital Home (QAHH) and the Friends of our hospitals each bring together volunteers, regardless of age, wealth, faith, politics or background.

The supporters and League of Friends keep helping Rustington’s Zachary Merton Hospital, miraculously still serving decades after a ‘decision’ was made to move its services. The Friends of Worthing’s hospitals give invaluable help to our valued staff and to cherished patients, years after Tom Wye led the all-party community effort to give Worthing Hospital the opportunity to continue the improvements that make it now recognised as Outstanding.

At QAHH, Giffard House, a visitor will be impressed at the packed open day. The evidence of what can be achieved with 1,000 volunteers is all around. Their contributions and the long-lasting leadership of John Paxman achieved transformation, despite regulatory ambushes and the drop in the value of invested endowments nearly twenty years ago. We should appreciate the benefits of competent stable chief executives staying to make vision into reality.

Consider too the achievements of St Barnabas with Hugh Lowson, developing services to children with life-limiting conditions, rebuilding at Titnore Lane and, like Guild Care, involving volunteers. Rustington Hall also illustrates how a good idea becomes a growing social enterprise that has provided opportunities for independent living, before people’s needs might need greater help. I was lucky to get to know and to admire Derek Whitaker who I associate with the quiet undramatic provision of wider opportunity of housing choices.

It is more difficult for individual faith groups to become known beyond their front door, unless they replace a wooden door with glass as many have, making it possible to see what is going on inside. Good works outside help; so does having a festival, like the East Preston trees and many flower days elsewhere.

I have been delighted by the openness of the Islamic Society, ably served for years by Ali Rahman and by Idris Nawab. After their tour of meetings in churches some years ago, I congratulate them for the successful Saturday open day and exhibition on Islam at Worthing’s Assembly Hall.

The display stands illustrated Muslim contributions to astronomy, science, medicine and the arts over the centuries. The first naturally explained the ‘Five Pillars’ that are the foundation of Muslim life, starting with faith in the Oneness of God, for them with the prophet Muhammad as the messenger of God. Muslims make no artificial division between the secular and the sacred. They do note that freedom of conscience is laid down by the Quran: ‘There is no compulsion in religion.’

My hope is that we continue to understand each other, to support and to defend each other and that our sense of togetherness is built in, not bolted on.

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