Browsed by
Category: 2018-2019 Mayor Jabba Riaz

Mayor’s Weeks: 21 February – 7 March 2019

Mayor’s Weeks: 21 February – 7 March 2019

Like it or not, we live in interesting times.  There is danger and uncertainty; but we are also living through one of the most creative periods in the history of mankind.  My recent visit to Pakistan certainly proved this point.

My itinerary was disrupted by the escalation of tensions between two nuclear neighbours.

The main purpose of my visit was to promote Worcester and to meet the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan, an ex-Worcester Grammar School pupil and Worcestershire County Cricket Club player. I had messages and letters from auctioneer Phillip Serrell, RGS Worcester and the County Cricket Club to deliver to the PM, as well as good wishes from the city. Unfortunately, the threat of war meant I was not able to meet him, but I delivered the letters to the British High Commission in Islamabad instead.

My tour started off with a visit to see the Mayor of the Gujranwala, Sheikh Sarwat Ikram.  Gujranwala is the city of my birth and is known for its culinary delights as well as the city of Pahelwans – roughly translated as wrestlers!

A grand traditional welcome awaited me and I addressed the city council and members of the chamber of commerce.  I was awarded the Mace of Wrestlers and a traditional Punjabi head dress known as a Kula!

I then went on to Lahore to meet the Mayor, retCol Mubasher Javed, at the iconic city hall building on the Mall Road – a beautiful legacy from the British colonial era. We talked about improving relations and friendship between our cities and exploring any opportunities that may arise after Brexit.

This was followed by a visit to the capital, Islamabad, where I saw the Minister for Kashmir, Mr Amin Gandapur.  This was a real bonus; we discussed issues affecting the overseas Kashmiri population, of which there is a small community here in Worcester.

Naturally the conversation led to the crisis in Kashmir and the right to self- determination for the Kashmiri population – an issue that is a thorn in the side of the world’s conscience and one that needs to be addressed if we are truly interested in peace in the region.

Next up was a visit to the Islamabad Press Club where I saw a tribute to murdered journalists around the world.  Pakistan’s press is remarkably free and liberal and not at the mercy of state control or political influence. However the threat and fear of violence is very real, and many have died delivering the truth. I paid my respects and delivered a short speech on press freedom, fake news, neutrality and ethics.

A four-hour drive to Mirpur Azad in Kashmir was the highlight of the trip; the beautiful scenery, winding roads, lakes and mountains are all visons of a paradise on earth.

During the drive I got a call from a friend who also lives in Worcester who happened to be visiting his mum in the village of Nakyal. He spoke in a worried voice, saying there had been firing and shelling overnight and they’d had to evacuate the women and children in the village to safer ground.

The reality of the situation began to sink in and I felt some fear.  The Government announced that air space was to close due to the imminent threat of war. I calmed my nerves by thinking about my family back home.  I reassured myself that PM Imran Khan is a capable and diplomatic leader who does not want war – especially not a nuclear war.

As we arrived in Mirpur, the gateway to Kashmir, I noticed an extremely large billboard in the distance with a vaguely familiar figure on it. As we got closer I saw to my surprise that the Mirpur Municipal Corporation had commissioned the poster with my picture on it to welcome me to the city! I was naturally gobsmacked.  One thing I have learned about Pakistani culture it is that they don’t do things by half, and they certainly lived up to that reputation.

A meeting with the CEO and cabinet of the corporation resulted in an interesting discussion around recycling and waste management. The city is roughly the size of Worcester and has a population of around 150,000.

Arriving back in my home village, I met with local Christians and admired the native population’s effort to help this community to build a church tower.    With intense poverty and homelessness in large parts of the country and land prices doubling every three to five years, the contrast between the rich and the poor is self-evident.  For many, faith in God sees them through their daily existence.

I always say that, despite the chaotic driving, state of its infrastructure and poverty, Pakistan is a country of miracles, great natural resources and beauty. Its people are passionate, innovative and entrepreneurial; they always find a way.

Mayor’s Diary: 8 – 14 February 2019

Mayor’s Diary: 8 – 14 February 2019

Love is in the air!  Depending on your level of optimism or pessimism this week, you may have been praising or cursing St Valentine as you rushed around the city to find the last bunch of sweet-smelling roses and the cheesiest Valentine Card left on the shelf – or the ‘forever yours’ pendant for your Valentine.

In his 1375 poem ‘Parliament of Fowles’, Geoffrey Chaucer described the 14th of February as the day that birds found their mate, heralding the start of Modern Valentine’s day. Over the centuries sages and poets alike have expressed their undying yearning love and pined over their beloved.  Love is the principal force behind human life.  In medieval theology, it was held that love literally set the universe in motion.  The praises of love do not, perhaps, extend as far back in time as the first human etchings or writings, but they do go pretty far back. “Amor vincit omnia” is part of a line from Virgil’s Eclogues: ‘Love Conquers all, let us yield to love.’

It is this love that in the modern day and age is in diminishing supply.  We find that far too many of us (Including myself many times) yield to the routines of modern life and succumb to the negativity, doom and gloom of heart-breaking world events. I find personally that the antidote to the ill feeling, hate or negativity that I often feel, is an expression of love or an act of kindness to release the negative energy from within.  I leave you with a couple of quotes that touched my heart and hopefully yours too; the first from Martin Luther King and the latter from the Sufi Saint Rumi, whose appeal is universal:

“Darkness cannot drive out Darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that”

“Wherever Water Flows Life Flourishes, Wherever Tears Flow, Divine Mercy Appears, Love Calls- everywhere and always, we are sky bound; are you coming?”

Love not Hate.


Mayor’s Week: 1 – 6 February 2019

Mayor’s Week: 1 – 6 February 2019

Last weekend I welcomed the Deputy Lord Lieutenant, Major Mark Armstrong, to the Guildhall to officially open an exhibition of images, paintings and pictures commemorating WW1.  This remarkable collection has been curated and put together over the last 30 years by John Noott.  It brings to life the varied aspects of the War, from those who served on the front line to those who worked on the home front.

Art gives a personal view of the horrors of war and immortalises moments in time, for future generations to view. This exhibition is another example of how Worcester has been commemorating the centenary of the Great War. Through the Worcestershire World War one hundred programme which Dr Adrian Gregson and his team have created, we have been able to view amazing pieces of literature, powerful music and thought-provoking films. It is my pleasure that we are now able to host 50 original prints and paintings reflecting wartime experiences.  It is only in place until 1 March, so please do pop in!

I was welcomed into the ‘dodgy end of town,’ as Professor Green so vehemently described it, when I was asked to attend the official opening of the Art House by the University on Castle Street. The official opening was conducted by HRH The Duke of Gloucester – Chancellor and passionate supporter of the University.

The Art House is an ambitious and exciting project for the University to have taken on. It’s a brilliant, magnificent space that respects the original design and conservation aspect of the building as well as its heritage – yet internally it’s been transformed into a bright modern space where creativity can be nourished and original innovative ideas can flourish and flow freely.

Students and the City of Worcester alike should be proud to have such excellent facilities on their doorstep. The news that £2.7m of arts funding was recently granted to the City is a cause for great hope and optimism – especially at a time when national funding has declined dramatically.  One day I really wish and hope that we have the ambition to see Worcester make a successful bid to be the UK City of Culture.

As always, I am blessed and grateful to serve this beautiful City and humbled by the great love and kindness we show to all here.  This is our defining characteristic, our hallmark and seal.  Have a great weekend.



Mayor’s Week: 24 – 31 January 2019

Mayor’s Week: 24 – 31 January 2019

Last Saturday we honoured Holocaust Memorial Day.  We remembered the mothers and daughters, fathers and sons who lost their lives during a time of unparalleled inhumanity.  We reaffirmed our ongoing responsibility as citizens to live out the admonition, “Never forget. Never again.”

Being ripped away from our houses and our lives seems almost unimaginable today. The emotional impact of having to leave their homes must have contributed to the great ordeal the Jewish people went through. Their belongings and more importantly their memories were being abandoned, as some were captured and others chose to flee.

It is deeply troubling, however, that I cannot refer to this as a thing of the past. As I speak, many immigrants are being torn from their homes in war zones across the globe. Imagine worrying about where your children were going to sleep and what was going to happen to your family.

The holocaust and the genocides in Rwanda, Cambodia, Yemen and Burma were very real. The persecution of Christians in Asia and Muslims in China are happening before our very eyes: these should be lessons to humanity. But the same pattern of demonisation and persecution repeats. Have we learned those lessons or are we just paying lip service to them?

My theme of ‘Love not Hate’ this year and my aim to unite communities, strengthening the bonds of friendship and understanding between mankind, is the perfect antidote to hate and fear.  My aim is to make this city a beacon for kindness and humanity.

From this year’s  Holocaust Memorial Day we can take away more than one message.  We must help and support those who have been torn from their homes. We must stand up for them in our communities and schools. And we must voice our belief in a UK which cares about the homes of all who live in it.

Our  Jewish brothers and sisters almost lost their history to violence. It is our duty to make sure this never happens, by making sure we always remember what their people endured. Hatred is something that we must fight together, as one strong community, and I am proud to live in a country which embraces people of all backgrounds and faiths.

It takes bravery and courage to stand up to those that seek to divide us and I am so proud of the fact that Cllr Marc Bayliss, leader of the City Council, stood up to a group that sought to spread their hate a couple of weeks ago. Thank you Marc – you lead by example and embraced this city’s moral values and ethos.