The exterior of the Houses of Parliament with the River Thames in the foreground
Houses of Parliament

In April 2024, members of the Culture Forward team were delighted to present at the Jain All-Party Parliamentary Group’s Mahavir Janma Kalyanak celebration at the House of Commons. They showcased their Qur’an in the City project, highlighting engagement with Birmingham’s Qur’an and Mingana Collection to inspire similar initiatives with Jain texts.

The celebratory event, a key fixture in the Jain and House of Commons calendar, drew attendees from politics, government, public sectors, national institutions, and the UK Jain community to celebrate the birth of the 24th and last Jain Tirthankara (enlightened teacher). This year also marked the 10th anniversary of OneJAIN – which represents 30 UK Jain organisations.

A significant moment was the announcement by Dr Adrian Plau from the Wellcome Collection, revealing the restitution of over 2,000 rare Jain manuscripts to the Institute of Jainology (IOJ). Described as an effort to "right a historical wrong," the IOJ announced a long-term loan of these manuscripts to the University of Birmingham, thereby enhancing its role as a premier Jain research institution outside of India.

Dr Emily Rozier, Deputy Director of Operations (Strategy and Projects), and Professor Sara Jones, Interim Academic Director of Culture Forward, presented Culture Forward’s model for cross-sector collaboration, especially focussing on how the Qur’an in the City project aims to connect communities across Birmingham with the unique Birmingham Qur’an fragment.

It was fascinating to learn more about Jainism and the precious Jain manuscripts housed by the Wellcome Collection. We hope our Qur’an in the City project provided some ideas of how people can be connected to important cultural artefacts that are too fragile to circulate.

Professor Sara Jones

Furthermore, University representatives, led by Professor Charlotte Hempel, Head of School of Philosophy, Theology and Religion, provided insights into their ongoing research and innovative educational programmes designed to engage the community with the Jain manuscripts and assuring the audience of their commitment to preserving and promoting these cultural treasures.