Donkey art brings message of peace

30 August 2013

ST PAUL'S CATHEDRAL/ASHRAF REDA

THROUGHOUT the Bible, donkeys have made momentous journeys of great importance, culminating in a celebrated ride into Jerusalem. They have even been known to speak. Today, 25 are scheduled to arrive at St Paul's Cathedral from Egypt, bringing a message of peace.

Each fibreglass beast in the CARAVAN interfaith art exhibition has been painted by a Western or Egyptian artist, both Christian and Muslim. First exhibited at the Anglican Church of St John the Baptist, in Cairo, a centre for interfaith dialogue for more than 80 years, they will arrive in London after occupying locations throughout Cairo.

The donkeys will be displayed in the south nave aisle of the cathedral until 23 September, when they will be auctioned by a Sotheby's auctioneer, with all profits going to charities in Egypt. The exhibition is sponsored by the Embassy of Switzerland, and supported by the British Council.

The Chancellor of St Paul's, Canon Mark Oakley, said this week: "There are over 40 million donkeys on this earth, and 96 per cent of them live alongside the poorest people of the world. They are known and loved for their hard work, resilience, loyalty, and stubbornness.

"They have been used for the best and worst of human intentions: from carrying the war wounded to medical help at Gallipoli, to bear- ing explosives to kill in today's war zones.

"Jesus chose a donkey to symbolise the divine humility. Similarly, in the Islamic tradition, the Prophet was carried by Ya`fūr. This exhibition, by both Muslim and Christian artists from Egypt, calls us to remember the peoples of that country today and what can be achieved together rather than apart. It also, at a time when both Muslims and Christians suffer persecution for their faith in many places, reminds us that just as the donkeys journey together in the cathedral towards the holy, so humans only become spiritually alive when they travel together in peace and with compassion."

He said that the surge in violence in Egypt in recent weeks had made the exhibition "more important and more urgent. . . This in a small way is trying to prayerfully and relentlessly ask all of us to think through ideas of how to be loyal to the future in Egypt and across the world. Christians and Muslims must work together wherever and whenever possible."

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