There is a phrase I heard someone use recently that struck a deep chord with me –
‘The Common Good.’ It perfectly sums why, as well as working as a professional musician, I founded a small, but growing, arts charity called Berakah Arts.
On Sunday 21 May, I took part in the Faiths in Tune Festival at The British Museum in London. It was a celebration of the power of music to bring people together and I was there with our youth band project, Increase The Peace. It was a wonderful day, full of mutually uplifting hope. The next night as I drove back home from another concert, still full of pride and hope, I began to hear the first reports emerging from Manchester and very soon the full impact of those heart breaking events began to sink in.
Since then, I’ve been thinking endlessly about the people who lost their lives, the people who were injured, their families, friends and their wider communities. My heartfelt condolences go out to them and to the wonderful people of Manchester. The fact that so many of those murdered were children leaves a deep scar on my heart. I’ve also been thinking about how vital it is that people who are working towards the ‘Common Good’ connect and work together even more closely.
Berakah Arts was founded on the core principle of transcending differences arising from religious beliefs and questioning assumptions or stereotypes that might stop us from seeing the human being in all of us. We started with a focus on people of Jewish, Christian and Muslim heritage and now I’m proud to say that our work includes people – across all age groups -from almost every faith group.
Another core aim is developing partnerships with faith groups. My teenage antipathy towards institutional religion was softened somewhat when I realised just how much great work was being done by faith groups on social action projects. This has brought us to strike a close partnership with West London Synagogue with its outstanding work with marginalised people – homeless, hungry, refugees and asylum seekers – and its inter-faith work under the leadership of Principal Rabbi, Helen Freeman: a long-running Jewish-Muslim Women’s Group, an Iftar (evening meal to break the days fasting) for 250+ local Muslims at Ramadan, a Scriptural Reasoning project looking at texts common to more than one religion, and an invitation to our flagship music group, The Berakah Players, to perform again in its magnificent synagogue on Sunday 4 June. At West London Synagogue, as at Berakah Arts, working for The Common Good is a guiding principle, a beacon for hope.
Of course, millions of people – ‘of faith’ or not – all over the world are already working for The Common Good. What they have in common is the belief that every human life is valuable, and although events might challenge our hope for peace, we must hold true to the belief that the good in all of us is more common than we might think.
Mohammed Nazam, is Founder, Artistic Director, Berakah Arts. Born in Pakistan in 1961, Mohammed Nazam’ s family moved to London months after he was born. Up to the age of 15 he thought he would be an artist and writer but discovered the guitar and his fate was sealed and he has been a professional guitarist, composer and writer for over 30 years. In 2012 he founded Berakah Arts – a music/arts charity designed to promote dialogue and understanding across faiths. www.berakaharts.org.uk
(The Berakah Players in concert ’Law, love, Life”, for Shavuot and Ramadan, at West London Synagogue at 6.30pm on Sunday 4 June 2017. www.ticketsource.co.uk/eretz)