The Bridge: A ground-breaking interfaith exhibition

Friday 19/06/2015
Art subverts lack of under­standing

LONDON - As sectarian conflict and proxy wars engulf the Middle East, building understanding between the faiths must at some point become part of efforts to make peace and achieve eventual reconciliation.
Nearly four dozen visual artists, representing a range of religions, contributed works for The Bridge, a travelling exhibition meant to im­prove dialogue between faiths.
After opening in Paris in Febru­ary, the exhibition is now showing at St Martin-in-the-Fields church in London till July 31st. It then has stops planned for elsewhere in Eu­rope, Egypt and the United States.
The title of the exhibition — The Bridge — was chosen, not because it is a means to bring two things closer to each other, but as a means to get from one thing to the other. Each side is able to retain its dis­tinctiveness and yet can be ap­proached from the other side and understood.
Muslim, Christian and Jewish contemporary and emerging artists submitted art interpreting what they think bridges people. Wheth­er on canvas, wood or paper, both male and female artists empha­sised what religions have in com­mon and encouraged unity.
“Art can imitate reconciliation as it is a common language around the world,” Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby told the exhibition opening in London last week.

The programme is curated by CARAVAN, which describes itself as “an interreligious and intercultural peacebuilding” non-governmental organisation.
Insecurity is based on ignorance, said the Reverend Sam Wells, vicar of St Martin-in-the-Fields. He sug­gested if people enter the world of their neighbour, they may re­alise things never imagined and also find what is interesting about themselves.
The exhibition displays what religions hold in common, which could determine the foundation of the future, said Reverend Paul- Gordon Chandler, co-curator of the exhibition. Art can bring people to­gether who would normally never come together, he said.
Art can also educate children, as each work relays an unbeliev­able story in a thousand words, said co-curator and artist Lilianne Milgrom. She said she hopes the artworks reach every school and every corner of the world, where children will understand the art­ists’ vision that we should all love each other.
“Our religion is a religion of ac­ceptance. Let artists be an instru­ment of peace. Where there is hate, let us show love,” she said.
Welby spoke of the importance of reconciliation through accepting diversity. He said reconciliation is a huge challenge at a time people find better ways of making their voices heard and fewer ways of be­ing able to listen to each other.
“One of the aspects of recon­ciliation is not that it abolishes di­versity with an incredibly boring mono-praying unanimity, but that it maintains diversity and in that diversity we find understanding,” the archbishop said.
Referring to the growth of Islam­ic State (ISIS) in Syria and Iraq, and Boko Haram in Nigeria, Welby said the more people are able to com­municate with each other, the less they seem able to deal with the di­versity they find.
Some reject anyone they do not like and demonise anyone they cannot understand. People have never felt closer to each other in terms of what they say to each other and they have never felt so unable to deal with that closeness, Welby said.
Art subverts the lack of under­standing, he said. It affects the con­scious mind where barriers exist and allows for space for interpreta­tion.
Organised by CARAVAN, The Bridge runs through July 31st at St Martin-in-the-Fields church, Lon­don. A full schedule of the exhibi­tion tour can be found at: http:// 5d229eea4ec1bad4729469ad5608. pdf.