“The rich diversity of our town has become in itself a lesson in the possibilities of co-operation and harmony between people of many different traditions and ethnic backgrounds. The concerns of the international community are reflected day by day in the lives of Hounslow citizens and it is of great importance that we nurture our relationships with towns and cities in other parts of the world, not least because it helps us to understand how to live together here in peace and mutual respect. I wish you well in the project…”
Father Tony Covery was just one of the many generous supporters who gave wonderful words of encouragement which we received from a variety of local churches, community groups and residents of Hounslow. Mentioned in coordinator Aun’s Qurashi’s introduction to the Inauguration meeting these wonderful words of encouragement and hopeful excitement really set the tone for the rest of the evening.
The collective community support coupled with the great panel up front and the turnout of over 45 supporters who took an interest made the inaugural meeting a real success and was a wonderful way to re start The Hounslow Ramallah Twinning Associations new lease of life.
Amongst the panel was His Excellency Professor Manuel Hassassian, the Palestinian Ambassador. The Ambassador expressed his happiness and support for the revived twinning link, describing life and culture in Ramallah as a bustling city full of life, beauty and a rich heritage, and explaining the potential benefits of the relationship. The Ambassador had earlier intimated his pleasure at accepting the position of (joint) Honorary President of the Association – the other position of (joint) Honorary President being constitutionally offered to the Mayor of Hounslow.
Also joined by Abe Hayeem (Architect and Activist) describing Ramallah as a normal city with beautiful architecture and the increasing interest and rise in tourism, Andree Ryan (Long-standing member of the Dundee Nablus Twinning Association and now a founder member of the Hanwell-Sebastia Friendship Association) who having had firsthand experience in a twinning association talked of its great potential , and Yara Sharif and Nasser Golzari who also made interesting and enlightening contributions in their knowledge and great insight into Ramallah and the Palestinian people.
There is much to learn from both Ramallah and Hounslow. The influences of their history, education, culture and arts enrich the very people who live in both communities. Although as Susan Hafid of the Arab Group in Hounslow highlighted the twinning would “offer the opportunity to educate a new generation by promoting and actively learning about different cultures.” Highlighting the importance of educating our younger generations in Hounslow. Increasing the worldly knowledge of our children would ensure that our future generations in Hounslow acquire a deeper insight and understanding of the global community.
‘With a support base turning up to the inaugural meeting of varied faith backgrounds including Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, agnostic, and others, and the support from Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrat and Independent Councillors Aun shared his thoughts that this twinning, in particular, is above matters of religion or politics. Stating Politics are undeniably there in the background, but the twinning itself is about people, and the things that unite us in our humanity.” as was eloquently put by Aun.
He also added that “we would have a tremendous amount to benefit from getting to know the people of Ramallah – their culture, their striving and application, their ingenuity, their optimism and their civic pride”. The feeling was shown to be mutual when Mayor Janet Michael’s letter was read out.
“It is with great emotion that we read your last letter. The support you are giving us to revive this unique Local Authority twinning is a testimony to the importance of such a relationship, symbolically but also regarding the projects that can be done on the ground. The city of Ramallah is the most central city in Palestine, thanks to its economic and cultural attractiveness. It is now seeking to find its place on the world map, convinced that international relations with foreign local authorities are as many ties between our citizens. Those ties are essential for a better understanding, which is the first and foremost step towards peace. That is why your action is so important.”
Other highlights included the spoken word artist Mohammed Yahya’s performance of his poem Jenin which you can view on his myspace page along with his other wonderful work.
As well as a great support from the Hounslow Borough Council in the form of Councillor John Connolly. Not forgetting the wonderful cake to end the meeting. His Excellency Professor Manuel Hassassian, was invited to perform the honour of cutting a ceremonial “Hounslow-Ramallah Reunited” cake.
In the words of Aun Qurashi who aptly concluded – “So where do we go from here? Which projects do we embark on? That will be for you, the members of the new Association, to suggest and decide. I’m sure that once we hear from our guests, there will be plenty to inspire us.”
And so I put it to you, the supporters and residents of Hounslow and anyone else who is interested to support HRTA in any way you feel you can, the opportunities are endless, the resources are available and there is much to learn from on both sides.