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Gloucester Cathedral faith exhibition vandalised

17 February 2017

Russell Haines/Gloucester Cathedral

At work: Russell Haines with one of his paintings, last month

At work: Russell Haines with one of his paintings, last month

AN ART exhibition at Gloucester Cathedral, which sparked controversy when it opened with an imam’s singing the Muslim call to prayer, has now been vandalised, and items in the Chapter House have been stolen.

The artist, Russell Haines, said that his exhibition “Faith” was intended to highlight the city of Gloucester’s multicultural identity, and “celebrate what we have in common”. The exhibition in the cloisters, which has another week to run, includes 37 portraits of individuals from different faiths, including the Bishop of Gloucester, the Rt Revd Rachel Treweek, alongside Zoroastrians, Druids, witches, and Pagans.

The launch event, featuring the Muslim call to prayer, drew criticism from some. Mr Haines and members of the clergy involved with the show say that they have received death threats and abuse on social media. Part of the exhibition — a triptych — was vandalised, and now projectors and other IT equipment used to screen video interviews have been stolen. The police had been informed of the thefts, Mr Haines said.

“The launch event went really well, with over 1000 people there. I was surprised by the backlash, but perhaps I was naïve. But the only thing that seems to have been criticised is the imam and the call to prayer. Some of the hundreds of comments I received said the cathedral had been desecrated and turned into a mosque.”

He said that he had no proof that the thefts were connected to the criticism of the call to prayer, but the two films stolen contained mostly Islamic content.

The Gloucester exhibition opened in the wake of another controversy caused by a reading from the Qur’an at St Mary’s Cathedral, Glasgow, last month (News, 13 January).

In response to criticism of the “Faith” exhibition, Gloucester Cathedral removed a clip of the Islamic call to prayer from its Facebook page. The Dean, the Very Revd Stephen Lake, emphasised, however, that the call to prayer and exhibition were not in a sacred space, and that the call had not been in the context of worship.

At the opening of the exhibition last month, Dean Lake said: “This art exhibition and its opening meeting is an important expression of the need to come together with people different from ourselves.”

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