Saturday 21st November 2009
Music from the Faiths
Parish Gospel Choir
St Michael & St
Choir of St Michael's
Sutton Court Chiswick
Sri Guru Singh Sabha
Choir of the Russian
On 21st November Watermans Art Centre in Brentford, West London echoed to the sound of music. Nothing unusual in that, except this was something different. One after another, a Jewish cantor sang psalms, Hindus and then Sikhs sang the words of the ancient Indian poet Kabir, Christian choirs sang in Latin, English and Russian, the Muslim call to prayer was intoned, and Quakers kept a short silence.
“Music from the Faiths” was Hounslow Friends of Faith’s contribution to the first national Inter Faith Week, an initiative of the Inter Faith Network and the Department of Communities and Local Government. All the participants were from local congregations in Hounslow and Ealing, presenting with commitment examples of what can be heard either before or during worship. Over 100 people in the audience enjoyed the wide range of music from their own and other cultures.
We are very grateful to all the groups who participated with such enthusiasm in this, the first such concert arranged by Hounslow Friends of Faith. Choices had to be made to select the programme and there have already been suggestions of other groups to be included another time. Do get in touch via our Contact Us link with your ideas.
One World Week
24th October 2009
Manju Mahli demonstrating her coriander chutney
Customs from Pancake Day to weddings in Somalia were celebrated on 24th October in Hounslow at an event which brought people of different cultures together. Deputy Mayor Barbara Harris opened the occasion referring to the benefit young people from Hounslow borough had gained from a recent trip to Tanzania, experiencing a less developed country at first hand. Around 60 participants at the Paul Robeson Theatre heard from Julia Clark of Tate and Lyle about the benefits of fair trade to sugar producers. TV cook Manju Malhi demonstrated one of her recipes and signed copies of her latest book. Entertainment was provided by the Tamil children dancers and Chiswick Gospel Choir.
The challenge of working for peace for people of faith
Talk by Norman Kember
16th July 2009
Norman Kember (third from right front row) with HFOF audience
Former Iraq hostage Norman Kember spoke to members of Hounslow Friends of Faith before the AGM of his experience in captivity in Iraq and his stand against the war. A conscientious objector since his university days, he enrolled in with the Christian Peacemakers Team to meet the Iraqi people, to observe the Team in action and to prove that age was no barrier to Christian peacemaking. ‘People of faith like the comforts of their faith but tend to avoid the challenges’ he said. He expected to be in Iraq for two weeks, but was kidnapped along with his three colleagues, two Canadians and an American Quaker after visits to a Shia cleric and a Sunni mosque. Kept prisoner for 4 months he was released when the SAS stormed the house. His American colleague, Tom Fox, was not so lucky, having been handed over to another group and killed. It wasn’t until after his release that Norman realised how much support for him there had been back in the UK and not just from Christians.
Norman also talked about forgiveness. Some months after his release he and two of his companions made a statement of forgiveness towards their captors. He recognised that forgiving is not easy and should really be done face to face. Since his return to the UK he has given 65 talks about peacemaking. Solving problems non-violently works more often than people think and should be celebrated. The holy books of all faiths refer to the ideal of peace yet nationalists often use religion to support their cause and opposition is seen as unpatriotic.
Asked what he thought he had achieved Norman said it was difficult to say, but giving his talks spread the word. We should continue to resist militarism and take the long view. Look how the Fairtrade campaign had taken off. Tackling inequalities will help to reduce violence in the world.
21st June 2009
Walk of Peace and Friendship
Outside the Church of
the Good Shepherd
Arriving at St Johns
Shree Jalaram Seva Trust
More than 40 people joined this year’s Walk of Peace and Friendship on Sunday 21st June visiting four places of worship in Hounslow. The Church of the Good Shepherd and St Johns Mar Thoma which originates in Kerala in South India, the Shree Jalaram Hindu Temple and the Ahmadiyya Muslim Association, are all within one parish in Hounslow West and little more than mile apart from each other. Friendships were reinforced as people shared one another’s stories. Participants saw how buildings belonging to one faith, were often used for the benefit of the wider community, ‘pockets of space where we have found peace and God’ remarked one walker. This theme echoed in the words sung by the Ahmadiyya children: ‘Peace to all humanity. Peace means love and harmony’.
Young volunteers participating in the Global Xchange scheme currently in Hounslow welcomed the chance to get to know the area. Sameh Farghaly from Egypt commented ‘We have different nationalities and different religions, but we have some aims which all of us can agree on, peace and love. Let’s focus on the things on which we agree.’
We are most grateful to all the venues for welcoming us so warmly.
4th June 2009
Hinduism, principles and practice
Speakers Swami Vishva Bharti Parivrajika(seated) and Harsh Haria (standing on the right) with mandir committee members Om and Indra Sharma with HFOF committee member Mukesh Malhotra.
Using modern PowerPoint and traditional talk from the heart gave over 40 people a wide ranging introduction to the philosophy, scriptures, values, worship and symbols of Hinduism. Harsh Haria explained the key concept of one God, Brahman, who may have many attributes, just as one person can be someone’s parent, someone’s spouse, someone’s child, all at the same time. People should aim to live a good life as all our actions in some way will come back to us. Positive actions build up a positive balance, and your soul keeps a tab. Harsh, who teaches Hindu children in Hounslow about their culture and values through the organisation Balagokulam, explained these as including respect for the family, truth, righteous living, service and non-violence.
Religious preacher Swami Vishva Bharti Parivrajika challenged us to look to the divinity that is in our hearts rather than concentrating on outward transitory pleasures. Each person must discriminate between good and evil. She questioned how many people who focus only on getting rich are truly happy. Hindus consider the whole world is one family.
Many thanks to the two speakers and committee members of the Laxmi Narayan Mandir in Hounslow for their contributions towards an inspiring and informative evening.
Changing the quality of the conversation.
Second Meeting of priests and faith leaders in Hounslow
30th March 2009
A range of participants with Bishop Richard
A meeting for priests, ministers and spiritual heads from all the places of worship in Hounslow Borough took place at the Church of the Good Shepherd, Hounslow, on Monday 30th March. The meeting was addressed by the Bishop of London, the Rt. Rev. Richard Chartres on the theme of ‘Living together in a multi-faith society’.
Opening his remarks Bishop Richard noted that when he was appointed in 1995 there was little thought about contacts between peoples of different faiths. Now guests from other traditions are regularly invited to share in major faith events such as the recent installation of the new Bishop of Kensington. However although inter faith meetings and consultations are more common there is still the tendency for the same ‘usual suspects’ as he put it, to meet and stay at the level of polite platitudes. People of different faiths do have many things in common in terms of creativity and moral values. There are also many areas where faiths disagree and we should be unapologetic about this. Speaking to someone from another faith ‘changes the quality of the conversation’ said the Bishop. ‘See differences as an advantage, not a problem’.
Answering a question on how to involve young people Bishop Richard noted that there is always a problem of communication between the generations. His advice was fourfold: ‘Be convinced, be humble, be joyful and look cheerful in your faith’. He added that faith leaders should listen deeply and be prepared to adapt services and procedures.
Referring to the present economic situation he commented that people are aware of the spiritual dimension, but don’t know how to put it into words. We must learn to develop a language and must not forget the poor.
Discussion afterwards focussed further on education and how faith group members can help bring religion to life by offering to visit schools as well as invite schools to visit places of worship. It was hoped teachers could be trained to learn about different faiths.
In addition to being the third most senior Anglican bishop in England, the Bishop of London is involved with ecumenical and inter faith bodies. He referred to his work founding St Ethelburga’s Centre for Reconciliation and Peace in the City of London church destroyed by an IRA bomb. He invited Hounslow Friends of Faith members to visit the centre and consider how to carry out similar work locally.
The meeting was the second to be organised by Hounslow Friends of Faith following up on our similar successful occasion in 2008.
Sikhism – a Way of Life
5th February 2009
‘No religion has a monopoly of God, they are different paths to the same place.’ So said one of three speakers at the talk on Sikhism at the Gurdwara Sri Guru Singh Sabha in Alice Way, Hounslow on 5th February. Gurmit Kaur Gulati also explained the role of the gurdwara in the life of Sikhs, describing it as a place to refocus on God and obtain both spiritual and physical refreshment. Education and sports are encouraged to look after both the body and the mind. Ever practical, Sikhs recognised early on that people don’t function well if they are hungry and the result is the langar, the kitchen which is open to all who need it in the community.
Discussions after the talk
Gurpreet Rai, wearing traditional dress, explained how the tenth guru gave temporal power to the people and spiritual authority to the Guru Grandt Sabha, the holy book which is read continuously in every gurdwara. He described the five symbols a baptised Sikh will wear, the steel bangle, the comb, the shorts, the kirpan, (a symbolic dagger to defend the truth), and the uncut hair kept in a turban which reminds the wearer of being one with nature.
The background to the establishment of Sikhism in the 16th century was given by Kiran Rana. She also spoke about the philosophy of meditation, equality, service, integrity and responsibility. Kiran explained how faith and cultural customs were different. It is clear from this that although most Sikhs are of Indian Punjabi origin, apart from the turban for men there is no obligation to wear traditional Asian clothes for every day.
Around 40 people attended the session, enjoying the vegetarian meal beforehand. The talk is part of a series HFOF is organising during 2009 and 2010.