Allan Hayes has written the First Person column in today's Leicester Mercury:
Diversity has enriched city and I'm proud to live here
Allan Hayes on the different religions in Leicester and why education is so important
It's time to tell people that we in Leicester, religious and non-religious, are one in humanity and that we are enriched by our diversity. We are fortunate in being able to say this from experience, from living together, from walking around, from travelling on the bus – we know what we are talking about.
I vividly remember arriving back from the United States to be greeted at Leicester station by a tall turbaned Sikh taxi driver with a "hello my friend, how do you like my new taxi?" and suddenly thinking, "I'm home".
A great deal is going into building this feeling of belonging.
Others will be able to add much more, but let me look back a little.
An Imam telling a group of us what Islam means to him and expressing his concern that Muslims should not isolate themselves; the launch of a book by a Jewish Quaker, proud of his Jewish heritage, and at the same time critical of Israeli policy towards Palestinians and seeking a just peace; a talk on the influence of Indian thoughts on Western thinking; an inside line, via my wife, to a campaign to stop the deportation of an asylum seeker mounted by Leicester City of Sanctuary (a great example of cooperation); an e-mail from a Sikh friend telling me that the Pope had said atheists like me might earn salvation through good works.
At the top of my concerns, however, is education: it can do so much to bring us together but it can also promote division.
Please, let us bring up our children together, let us bring them up knowing one another; learning to appreciate the long journey that we humans have taken together and that the human family includes us all: Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, humanist, atheist, whatever.
There is increasing realisation of the importance of this issue.
I have been pursuing it for a long time, recently at meetings in London and in Birmingham and on the web.
It will be taking up a lot of my time and effort in the coming year.
Recently, I told a humanist group in rural Dorset about how we do things in Leicester – I spoke with pride.
Allan Hayes is a board member of Leicester Secular Society