Inter-faith Picnic Holland House 2nd July 2017

Images and words from people attending the annual inter-faith picnic hosted by Holland House and organised by Rev’d Ian Spencer, the warden. Video created by Rev’d Doug Chaplin

2017 Interfaith Picnic from Diocese of Worcester on Vimeo.

In the words of Canon Owain Bell, Chair of WIFF:
“What a wonderful, wonderful afternoon!
We have received lovely tributes. Apparently the children from Clifton Road Mosque had such a marvellous time they are already asking when they can come again!!

Isn’t that something to gladden the heart?

As I wrote earlier to Ian, I don’t think I shall forget the sound of Klezmer in the garden, the sight of saffron robed figures drifting under the cedar trees, the food of course and the delight of children putting together the word…” FRIENDSHIP”. And seeing friendship growing among us.”

News Release – London Bridge Attack

4 June 2017

Statement from the Co-Chairs of the Inter Faith Network for the UK and Moderators of the IFN Faith Communities Forum following the London Bridge Attack

We hold in our thoughts and prayers those who have lost their lives or been injured in the attacks at London Bridge, and also their families and friends.

We give thanks for the bravery and commitment of all who went to their assistance.

This was a further brutal attempt to undermine the stability of British society and to sow suspicion and fear – one that must be met by continuing to stand resolutely together as people of all faiths and none to uphold the values of an open democratic society.

We must continue to work together for a respectful and positive society where people feel valued and included and safe and where all can flourish free from fear.

Attacks such as these can bring scapegoating and acts of hatred in their wake. Let us work to try and prevent that and respond together to assist whenever necessary.

We know that, just as following the recent attack in Manchester, inter faith organisations in London will be playing an important role in the days and weeks to come. They are also in our thoughts at this time.

Two weekends from now the anniversary of the murder of the late Jo Cox MP by an extremist of a different kind will be marked by the Great Get Together. People around the UK will be coming together in their communities in a spirit of neighbourliness to highlight and celebrate what unites. Let us seize that moment to strengthen our bonds of friendship and create new relationships and to remember and affirm that we have, in her words, “far more in common with each other than things that divide us”.

IFN Co Chairs and Moderators of the IFN Faith Communities Forum

Multi Faith Covenant

On Monday 7th February 2017 Worcestershire Acute Trust Spiritual & Pastoral Care services gathered to sign a new Multi-faith covenant. Rev’d David Ryan, Chaplain at Alexandra Hospital and Caragh Merrick, chair of Worcester Acute Hospitals NHS Trust welcomed representatives from the local faith communities, healthcare staff and volunteers in the ceremonial signing of the covenant.

Signatories. David Camberlain (Lay Buddhist), Rabbi Margaret Jacobi, Cllr Jabba Riaz (Muslim) and Rev’d Canon Owain Bell formally witnessed the acceptance of the covenant as a guiding document for an inter-faith approach within the Hospital Trust. Each gave a short speech affirming the value of diversity within the wider community and the importance of faiths working together to ensure that patients receive the best care possible, and that staff are supported pastorally and spiritually, recognising the wonderful work that they do.

Rev’d Guy Hewlett, Chaplain at the Royal and Kidderminster Treatment Centre lead the reading of the “Act of Commitment”. He began:

In a world scarred by the evils of war,
racism, injustice and poverty,
we offer this joint Act of Commitment as we
look to our shared future.

Those gathered recited with Guy:
We commit ourselves,
as people of many faiths,
to work together
for the common good,
uniting to build a better society,
grounded in values and ideals we share:

personal integrity
a sense of right and wrong
learning, wisdom and love of truth
care and compassion
justice and peace
respect for one another
for the earth and its creatures.

We commit ourselves,
in a spirit of friendship and co-operation,
to work together
alongside all who share our values and ideals,
to help bring about a better world
now and for generations to come.

Concluding and closing words were given by Mrs Tricia Bradbury, Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Worcestershire and Rev’d Dr David Southall, Team Leader of Spiritual & Pastoral Care.

The full text of the covenant can be read here

Visit My Mosque

On Sunday 5th February 2017, Rev’d Mary Austin and Canon Owain Bell the Clifton Road Mosque in Birmingham.

muslim-compressed-580x395Mary writes: Owain and I went to represent the Worcestershire Interfaith Forum at the “Visit My Mosque day” hosted at The Clifton Road Mosque in Balsall. We could not have anticipated the amazing warmth of the welcome we received as we entered. The place was packed with people from all sorts of walks of life and different faiths. During the time we were there we bumped into Margaret Jacobi from the Birmingham Progressive Synagogue, Winnie Gordon from the Unitarian church and a number of Anglican and Methodist colleagues.

Various speakers talked about the mosque and the Muslim faith and there was an interesting question and answer session chaired by one of the women where we heard from two of the scholars from the Mosque, one of whom was Shaykh Amin who came to our Faith and Criminal Justice Day last February at Holland House. In response to questions about the Islamic faith we heard of love and community work and seeking for peace. How I wished this event could have been on the news – giving a completely different image to the one normally peddled by the media!

It was a joy to meet up again with Nasrin Shah with whom I had had an interesting conversation at Holland House in November and also to meet with some amazing women. I got the impression the role of the woman at that mosque is very strong – they are involved in a number of community projects and we hope to keep in touch with some of them. Again contrary to the image we often have of Islam those women were of equal status with the men.

There was a wonderful spread of food, lots of activities for children and families. I could have been taught how to put a hijab on and we both came away with cards with our names in Arabic calligraphy on them as well as the singles roses we were given when we arrived.

It was a truly wonderful afternoon. A leaflet we were given entitled Shia Islam in a Nutshell had the heading “God’s Love – The piece of string that ties us all together”

That really says it all. That love was present and tangible in the friendship and welcome we received and in the promise of building stronger relationships.

The First Bromsgrove Mitzvah Day

Mitzvah Day is a Jewish-led day of social action that brings thousands of people together, worldwide of all faiths and none, to give their time, not their money, to make a difference to the community around them.

Cllr Malcolm Glass & Revd Owain Bell at Bromsgrove Mitzvah Day 2016.JPGOn Sunday 27th November, Melanie Mann and Yvonne Stollard organised a fantastic team from the local Jewish, Christian and Muslim communities, to come together to offer free cakes and hot drinks to the patients, their visitors and the staff at the Princess of Wales Hospital, Bromsgrove. Not only was this a good way to serve the community, it was also a great opportunity to demonstrate that people of different faiths can, and do, work together in friendship.

Malcolm Glass, Vice-Chair of Bromsgrove Council, was invited to attend. He said, “The event was a wonderful experience. It was lovely to see friendship, co-operation between three faiths, which in reality have very few differences. It was a delight to be helping with something so community-minded.

Revd. Owain Bell, Chair of Worcestershire Interfaith Forum, who also came to support the event, commented, “It was a wonderful and joyous occasion where people of different faiths came together in mutual respect and friendship to work on a social action project.

The Rt Hon Sajid Javid, MP for Bromsgrove and Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, was hoping to come to the event but was unfortunately unable to attend after all. He wrote in the Jewish Chronicle last week,

On behalf of everyone in government, I want to thank each and every one of the countless Jewish volunteers who will be giving freely of their time this weekend. You will be helping those in need. But you will also be building friendships across ethnic and religious divides. And, ultimately, that is how we will triumph over fear and intolerance. Not by building ever-higher walls to hide behind. But by having the courage to break down the barriers between us”.