After vandals destroyed the last Christmas Nativity scene figures in 2001, Redbridge Council decided to terminate the annual expression of the Christian faith, removing the captivating reminder of the birth of Jesus, which is the very reason for the celebration of Christmas. The Council have instead chosen to focus on Christmas Trees and Santa as local celebrations of Christmas become increasingly commercial.
However Churches of Redbridge have hit back and on a front page article in the Ilford Recorder this week (click here) demanded the return of the Nativity to the town hall steps, in order to preserve an ancient British custom and to revert to the true meaning of Christmas.
Moreover, In an on-line poll undertaken by the Ilford Recorder to which over 600 people responded - which is a very good number of responses for their surveys - over 83% of those polled were in favour of a return of the nativity scene.
Several local residents were quoted in the article, the majority of them seemed in favour:
"Herbert Street commented under our Facebook post: “Like most people in the UK I have no religion but the Nativity is as much a part of the Christmas tradition as Father Christmas and mince pies, so yes.
"Facebook user Caroline Cruse said: “Irrespective of the fact that some people don’t celebrate Christmas, a great many people do. It is a tradition that ought to continue as a symbolic representation of what Christmas means.” wrote the Ilford Recorder.
Some commentators were less favourable: "Ben Waters joined the debate and added: “The last one in about 2001 was vandalised beyond repair, I think Christmas lights and decorations are suitable.” "Tj Bhamra shared a similar viewpoint and said it would be a waste of taxpayers’ money as it is likely to be vandalised." Wrote the Ilford Recorder,
Redbridge Council said it has no plans to put one in but will assist any group that wants to.
“We celebrate all religious and cultural events, and the council would be happy to work with any group wanting to place a Nativity scene in the town centre to help them to identify a suitable location,” said council leader Jas Athwal
“This year we’ll be continuing to work with Ilford Business Improvement District (BID) to support the Christmas tree and outdoor lights in Ilford, as well as the festive decorations in our other town centres.”
The Ilford Recorder quoted Ben Colins of BID (referred to by Mr Athwal), who said:
“There are no plans to install a Nativity scene in the town centre this Christmas. “There is a Santa’s Grotto in The Exchange from November 25 up to and including Christmas Eve, which is the most frequently requested attraction by the public. “There is a Reindeer Trail to encourage families to shop their way around Ilford, a Christmas guide (printed and online) and much more which we will announce officially soon.”
Mr Ben Collins obviously missed the point of all the earlier discussion.
However rather surprisingly, Chairman of the Federation of Redbridge Muslim Organisations Farouk Ismail said he was “all for” a Nativity scene in Ilford.
“It is good to have Christmas celebrated in the way Christians do and it will take it away from commercialism to what it is meant to be.”
His comments and many of the others illustrating quite clearly that it is not just Christians who would like to see the return of the nativity scene to Ilford.
Our initial discussions with Redbridge Facilities Management Department were stonewalled. In fact when our Chairman Wilson Chowdhry referred to the comments by the Leader of the Council who committed the council to 'work with any group' in reintroducing the nativity, he was met with a look of complete unbelief. However the management team agreed to look into the matter. Mr Chowdhry called daily and 8 days later demanded a meeting at the town hall steps telling council staff that he would not accept any further delay as any nativity purchased would need to be bought soon to be in time foir Christmas. After some wrangling a location was agreed.
we have to raise the funds!
British Pakistani Christians are now collecting funds for a professional Nativity scene, which will be bought with the purpose of being displayed at the steps of Ilford Town Hall each year.
The Nativity set will be installed by a different primary school or church Sunday School, to remind children of the importance of the birth of Christ and help them understand the origins of the Christmas celebration.
The Nativity scene will counter the commercialism that has swamped British Christmas' and placed so many of us in debt when we should be rejoicing in the new hope that Christ brings to mankind. An 11 piece Nativity set made from painted fibreglass will cost £800 and will include most of the main characters from the Nativity. It's robust and relatively vandal-proof, moreover the quality of the figurines is excellent.
Please help us to raise the funds to bring Christ back to Redbridge. After all it is clear that most people in the community want it irrespective of their faith or no faith as it may be.