Holocaust Memorial Day 2020

The Guildhall in Worcester was filled this morning (January 27) as residents, councillors and guests joined to pay their respects to the victims of the holocaust.

The moving event, held on Holocaust Memorial Day was themed around standing together, and explored how genocidal regimes throughout history marginalise certain groups and how these tactics can be challenged by standing together as a community.

Visitors heard addresses from the Mayor of Worcester Allah Ditta and holocaust survivor Mindu Hornick MBE.

Ms Hornick, 90, was born in Czechoslovakia and survived both Auschwitz-Birkenau and a slave labour facility during the Second World War.

She has spent the last two decades educating audiences, especially young people, about the dangers of intolerance and growing levels of Islamophobia and antisemitism in the world.

She was recognised in the Queen’s New Year Honours List for her services to Holocaust education and commemoration, working closely with the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust and Anne Frank’s Trust.

The event was organised by the Worcestershire Interfaith Forum with support from Worcester City Council and Platform Housing.

This year’s Holocaust Memorial Day commemorates both the 75th anniversary of the libration of Auschwitz and the 25th anniversary of the genocide in Bosnia.

Cllr Ditta said: “On Holocaust Memorial Day we remember those who have lost their lives across the globe as a result of hatred and intolerance.

“It is also an opportunity to reflect on the actions which brought about that loss and to redouble our resolve to ensure this never happens again.”

Several schools in the area also took part in the event

Minutes of meeting held on 19th September 2019

WIFF meeting held on 19th September 2019 – minutes

Present: Yvonne Stollard (Chair), Malik Fayez, Ian Spencer, Pam Cuthbert, Jnanamati Williams,  Hansa Norman, John Norman, Helen Caine, Tom Piotrowski, Israel Selvanayagam, Leela Selvanayagam, Dayamay Dunsby Apologies: Sarah Cottrill, Mary Austin, Adam Thorne, Owain Bell, Doug Chaplin

1) The Chair thanked Revd Dr Israel Selvanayagam for hosting the meeting at the Methodist Church in Evesham

2) Apologies from those unable to attend were received. Pam Cuthbert gave us news on the health of Treasurer Adam Thorn and the meeting asked that a card be sent to him with our love and prayers. Action: Ian Spencer

3) Dr Selvanayagam led a short reflection from the Bhagavad Gita using the text “fix your mind on God, and do your duty without expecting a reward”.

Malik Fayez also asked us to pray for peace and have gratitude that we live in a peaceful country – at the time of the meeting Malik’s hometown in Pakistan was “locked-down” with no internet access and curfews in place.

4) The minutes of the meeting were accepted with no corrections needed

5) Matters arising and notification of Any Other Business

a) “Climate change – challenges for Faith” – Chair Yvonne explained the event happening on November 11th at Holland House. This will be our Faith and Public Policy event during National Interfaith week this year.

We’ve invited Dr Martin Hodson (a plant scientist and environmental biologist) to offer the keynote speech, to which members of Faith communities will give a short response (via Birmingham-based Footsteps – “faiths for a low carbon future”). The Meeting noted it would like someone to take notes, or ask for presenters’ notes, such that a summary of each Faith’s response could be recorded and perhaps used as part of WIFF’s statement on Climate Change. It was suggested that a video of the day could be made.  Action: Yvonne Stollard to ask Becky Davidge if someone from the university could video the day.

In the afternoon Katie Boom (Director of Sustainability at Worcester University) will offer a short talk on sustainability and practical actions, and then offer the meeting some questions for small break-out groups to consider.

Invitations to include County Council rep. and local MPs, Worcestershire Peoples Parliament.

Publicity suggestions – Radio H&W, local TV, local papers 

The Meeting agreed it would be good to formulate a statement on the subject of Climate Change after the Event, and promulgate it to Civic / Religious Leaders and appropriate Politicians. It was also agreed to put ‘sustainability’ as a standing item on the agenda.

b) Mitzvah Day, Alexandra Hospital Redditch, Sunday November 17th 2.00pm – 4.00pm.  Action: Yvonne to send a reminder email

c) Holocaust Memorial Day, January 27th 2020. Helen Caine confirmed everything was ready including the speaker,  Holocaust survivor Mindu Hornick. Preparations are being made to invite Civic Leaders. Action: Helen Caine

d) Interfaith – March event at Holland House. This event celebrates two festivals, one from each Faith Community. In 2020 Hansa will present the Hindu Festival of Holi. Jnanamati said he would find out if the Pureland Buddhists may be able to offer something in the afternoon.  It was noted we don’t have a date for this. Action: Ian Spencer to arrange date.

e) The Festival of Faiths (aka Interfaith Picnic) is scheduled for next year. It was noted no children came last year, and there was no-one from the Muslim or Sikh communities present. The Meeting decided it would make a special effort to invite families, and reach-out to the Muslim and Sikh communities in time for next years festival. It was also noted a date needed to be agreed.  Action: regarding the date, Ian Spencer.

f) Interfaith Calendar. It was noted that Mary Austin has created an Interfaith Calendar. All that was needed to complete the project was for Jatinder Loyal and Hansa Norman to check the Sikh and Hindu festival dates. Action: Everyone to check the dates pertaining to their faith and contact Mary with any amendments as soon as possible.

The Meeting thought around 100 calendars would be enough

g) WIFF website. Jnanamati asked members who haven’t already done so, to send him some text regarding their profile, and any events and associated dates. Jnanamati would be grateful if the text can be easily cut&pasted i.e. sent on a Word document or as part of the body of an email. Jatinder has suggested adding a digital calendar with dates of WIFF meetings and events.

6) Finance: As Adam Thorne is our treasurer is unwell, no accounts were presented at this meeting. It was noted that there were funds available thanks to generous donations by WIFF members, and that donations for some subsequent events (e.g. Festival of Faiths) could help build up the reserves. The Meeting asked for their love and best wishes to be sent to Adam and to the Baha’i community.


a) ROC – Helen introduced this event (Redeeming our communities), taking place at Bank House in Worcester on Tuesday evening 17th March 2020. Helen will send out invitations to WIFF members. The organisers ( are hoping for 400 people to attend.

b) St David’s Church Worcester are holding an Interfaith service at 4pm on 17th November.          Revd Sarah Cottrill sent word that all WIFF members were invited.

c) Worcester Hate Crime Forum: The WIFF representative on this is Mary Austin. At the recent meeting an incident was reported concerning an offensive homophobic flyer that had appeared. It purported to come from a faith base. Tom Piotrowski was also at the meeting. Action: Mary to compose a couple of sentences distancing WIFF from the hateful sentiments – to be put on the WIFF facebook page.

d) Trips during 2020 to Hindu temples are being organised by Hansa Norman, dates to be arranged. Action: Hansa.  Likewise a trip to a Gurdwara was being organised by Jatinder Loyal, dates to be arranged. Action: Jatinder.

e) Other events: 19th Oct. Rangoli with Hansa at Droitwich Library; Baha’i 200th anniversary celebration (dtba).

f) Medaille Trust – as we ran out of time, the email about this will be emailed to members for comment.

Date of next meeting: November 26th 2019. Venue to be announced.

Reflection – Pam Cuthbert

The meeting concluded at 7.35pm

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”.

United in Friendship

On Sunday the 20th November, members of WIFF and supporters from local faith groups stood outside the St. Andrews Methodist Church in central Worcester to hand out recently printed postcards promoting friendship between faith communities. It wasn’t a warm day but there was a warm spirit between the team of people who handed out cards and spoke to passers by and shoppers.

Thanks to Rev’d Helen Caine for hosting and providing equipment, to (in the photograph, from left to right) Pam Cuthbert (Bahá’í), Adam, Rev’d’s Satyavani and Kaspalita (Pure Land Buddhists), Rev’d Mary Austin and Canon Owain Bell. Others also supporting the event: Jen, Rev’d Jnanamati and Lorraine.