London’s faith communities are open and welcoming!
In step with the Mayor’s #LondonIsOpen message, a short film has been shot on location across the capital and includes Sikh, Quaker, Jewish, Islamic, Hindu, Christian, Buddhist & Baha’i places opening their doors.
Against a backdrop of international tensions and increased hate crime, London’s faith groups, from humble to grand, are not closed and fearful – we remain open and welcoming!
Inter Faith Week events across London are screening the new film as part of their activities – you are welcome to do the same by using this link. Can you identify the different places?
Thanks to everyone who responded to our email during the summer and welcomed in the cameras – we were overwhelmed with offers. A big thank you to Rosalind Parker and Jack Jeffreys for the filming. For any who would like to get involved in the next stage, our #LondonIsOpen initiative continues – join us at 3pm on Tuesday 6 December at Collaboration House, 77 Charlotte Street, W1T 4PW, to plan for 2017. Let us know if you’d like to join us.
Hustings and other election events (some of them this week) are listed here.
Monday 20 April 10am-4pm Wandsworth Community Empowerment Network CoProduction Research Conference, Springfield Hospital, Tooting, SW17 7DJ
Monday 20 April 5.30pm – 7.30pm Peace Café at Collaboration House, 77 Charlotte St, W1T 4PW. Topic this month is “the media, peace and social justice“. Bring a little food to share.
Wednesday 20 April – last day to register to vote in the General Election. Download Westminster Faith Exchange’s briefing here.
Wednesday 22 April 9am – 10.30am Security Briefing at New Scotland Yard for places of worship and religious & belief communities.
Wednesday 22 April 6pm Near Neighbours Funding Workshop at the Khalsa Centre, 95 Upper Tooting Road, London SW17 7TW.
Friday 24 April 8.30pm Immigrant Diaries “Statistics don’t tell the story of immigrants; people do.” Guest comedians and entertainers share their stories of immigration at the Southbank Centre, SE1. £10.
Saturday 25 April 10am – 2pm Southwark Multifaith Health & Environment event at Southwark Carers, Walworth Methodist Church, 54 Camberwell Road, London, SE5 0EN, to learn more about plant based living.
Sunday 26 April 4pm Woven Threads & Torn Fabric: the story of Yosef & Zuleikha. A Jewish-Muslim telling of the Joseph story at St Ethelburga’s Centre for Reconciliation & Peace, 78 Bishopsgate, EC2N 4AG. £10. www.woventhreads.eventbrite.co.uk
Wednesday 29 April 2:30pm Faithful Friends (Richmond upon Thames) ‘What is Humanism and the Changing Religion and Belief Landscape in Britain‘ Talk by Jeremy Rodell in Room 2008, second floor, John Galsworthy Building, Kingston University, Penrhyn Rd Campus.
Friday 1 May 3pm – 4.30pm Near Neighbours Funding Workshop in Hammersmith & Fulham at St Andrew’s Church, Greyhound Road, London W14 9SA. Download flyer here .
Tuesday 5 May 6.30pm Pre-election Frontline Film Club (18-30s), focusing on hot topics from the election campaign at Collaboration House, 77 Charlotte St, W1T 4PW.
Friday 8 May 10am Beyond Collaboration: co-creating the new at St Ethelburga’s Centre for Peace & Reconciliation. £48.
Sunday 10 May 9.30am – 4.30pm Repairing the Earth: A Jewish Muslim Response. An-Nisa Society in partnership with the Leo Baeck College invites Muslims and Jews to a text-based workshop. £30. Details and registration here.
Sunday 10 May 8pm Council of Christians and Jews presents Nostra Aetate: More Sentiment Than Substance? at JW3, 341-351 Finchley Road, London, NW3 6ET.
Wednesday 20 May 4pm Westminster Cathedral Interfaith Group at the Hinsley Room, Morpeth Terrace, SW1. Sally Reith of Shared Interest on investing in a fairer world.
Thursday 28 May Camden’s Bridge The Gap, a new designated day to bring people together.
Wednesday 3 – Saturday 6 June New drama by Ambreen Razia Diary of a Hounslow Girl at Oval House Theatre, Kennington, Lambeth.
Saturday 6 June 10am – 4pm Hounslow Friends of Faith Walk of Peace and Friendship.
By bringing the experience and expertise of our local communities together with those of the statutory bodies, we can co-design and co-produce public services that make a big difference to people’s lives, that use public money more effectively and which tackle the inequalities we are all aware of.
If your faith forum, church, temple, Islamic centre, synagogue or gurdwara is working with (or interested in working with) your local borough council or NHS, please come along.
WCEN’s CoProduction Research Conference is on Monday 20 April at Springfield Hospital in south London (Tooting Bec tube) & is open to religious and community groups from across London.
One of the workshops is tailored especially for those of us who are interested in getting started on making a contribution to the physical health & emotional wellbeing of our communities.
Professor John Benington (University of Warwick) is a leading thinker in the future of how public services are evolving and will be speaking on “mobilising movement for whole system change in times of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity”. The day will finish with a conversation between Prof Benington and Wandsworth Council’s Chief Executive, Paul Martin.
It’s an opportunity to share ideas from across systems and social networks: academics, policy makers, public servants, local religious & community organisations.
Join Becky Brookman, the West (& South West) London coordinator for the Near Neighbours Programme, in Tooting (Mushkil Aasaan, 222 Upper Tooting Road, SW17 7EW, nearest tube Tooting Broadway) on Monday 23 March 6.15pm – 8pm. Download the flyer here. Hot food provided!
Wandsworth Community Empowerment Network, Faiths Together in Lambeth and the South London Interfaith Group are teaming up for a relaxed but engaging evening, talking about our local communities, how we can work together, sharing insights & knowledge, equipping and enabling us to transform our neighbourhoods. The evening is especially tailored for the eligible areas in south London boroughs – all are welcome.
Becky will be giving us more information about Near Neighbours, the free training available, tips on filling in the forms and ideas on partnership and joint working.
This Sunday is a great opportunity to visit our local mosques and enjoy a cup of tea. Islamic centres will be opening their doors to visitors as part of a Muslim Council of Britain initiative to reach out to fellow Britons following tensions around terrorism.
“Mosques will be sharing tea and refreshments, alongside an insight into the day-to-day goings on of a busy Muslim centre of worship.
Members of the community are there to get to know one another better and some may be on hand to answer questions about Muslims and Islam where this is possible. Local mosques will also be inviting inter-faith leaders as well, and all will be invited to come together to demonstrate unity and solidarity during what has been a tense time for faith communities.“
Many mosques welcome visitors as a matter of course, but a list of participating centres can be found here and is being regularly updated. Those in London include Islamic centres from a range of Islamic traditions:
Balham Mosque, 47A Balham High Rd, Tooting SW12 9AW www.balhammosque.org
Finsbury Park Mosque, 7-11 St. Thomas Rd, N4 2QH www.finsburyparkmosque.org
Hyderi Islamic Centre, 26 Estreham Road, Streatham, SW16 5PQ www.hyderi.org.uk
Shi’a Ithna’ashari Community of Middlesex, 39 Gloucester Road, Harrow, HA1 4PR www.sicm.org.uk
Sri Lankan Muslim Cultural Centre, 2 Whitefriars Avenue, Harrow, HA3 5RN www.slmcc.co.uk
Tooting Islamic Centre, 145 Upper Tooting Rd, SW17 7TJ www.tootingislamiccentre.org
Add a comment below if you know of others which are open on Sunday.
We couldn’t meet together so soon after the Paris attacks without reflecting on their impact on local communities in London. I asked Steve Miller and Malik Gul, trustees of LBFN, to offer their thoughts at the start of our meeting last week. These are reproduced below.
Like everyone I’ve scanned a lot of comments, blogs and some much longer pieces in the press and online. I’m not sure that I have anything near a definitive response or reached conclusions that are much more than ‘on the one hand’ and ‘on the other hand’.
What is clear is that these events have been painful and distressing to large numbers of people, and at the same time appear – as often happens with traumatic events – to have opened doors for positive engagement, activism and conversations that might not have happened otherwise.
Some of these conversations have been around ideas of freedom and the nature of a free society. Obviously there are associated ideas. Some people have linked ideas of freedom to ideas of obligations and responsibilities. Some have explored the nature of freedom itself. In the Jewish cycle of readings from the Torah (first 5 books of the Bible) we are just beginning to read the story of the Exodus fro Egypt and a number of recent sermons have explored the distinction between freedom from oppression, and freedom to create a fair society.
When exploring ideas of freedom – especially if you are linking it to liberation and freedom from oppression – then notions of power inevitably come into the conversation. Who is powerful and who is not. In some contexts this equation is very clear but in many others the balance and perceptions of power are more ambiguous or confusing or constantly changing. In this context perceptions of Muslims and perceptions by Muslims are certainly mixed. Who is powerful, how do they use that power, and over who?
There has also been something in the air about victimhood. I think we are all repelled by the idea that there is some kind of mental ladder of victimhood with some victims being ‘more’ than others. But I have been struck at how quickly sections of the public and media responded to the notion of a rise of antisemitism. This is a more easily understood notion than understanding the meaning of the victims in the Charlie Hebdo building, let alone the Muslim victims of hatred around the world. With so many acres of space on the mass media front pages covering the rise of antisemitism, people may not be aware that this is being hotly contested within the Jewish community. The majority view seems to be that not only in the UK but also in France, experiences and perceptions of antisemitism are not quite as dramatic as some would suggest.
And there has been an aspect of these conversations that have, predictably, been subject to political and populist opportunism. At one level the obvious soundbites are important. It is important that Prime Ministers and Presidents stand up against violence and terror, prejudice and discrimination. But we also expect more from our political leaders. We expect a level of understanding that goes beyond simplistic polarisations. We are right to expect governments to think and act in ways that reflect the complex nature of the society we live in. Cohesion, participation, integration, inclusion and empowerment are interesting and useful policy slogans but they also act as proxy shorthand for a range of patterns of behaviour which need to be unpacked and understood. Understanding the detail is essential; looking at the big picture is useful, but getting to grips with people’s lived experience is what makes the difference.
And for ourselves around the table, where does this leave us? We can also be guilty of generalisations, platitudes and truisms. We need to take our eternal values and principles and look to how we can apply them at a local, regional and national level. By sitting around the table we are already taking the first step. We need work together in solidarity – not to compare my suffering to your suffering – but to see an attack on anyone as an attack on us all. A society based on solidarity is a society in which all of our diverse identities can exist together, flourishing and without fear. Steve Miller, Faith-based Regeneration Network
Catriona asked me to share some thoughts from a personal perspective, and I am happy to do so, as I feel that in all the noise and commentary following the events in Paris, the voices, hopes and fears of everyday and ordinary Muslim members of our community have been ignored and marginalised.
I am a Muslim. I was born in Birmingham. I was there a few days ago with my Mum and members of my family, and Birmingham has, as many of you will know, a large and settled multicultural community with a significant Muslim population. A recent Fox News commentator even went so far as to say that Birmingham has now become a No Go Area for Non Muslims, which is an example of some of the hysteria that is now circulating and the fear that this has produced.
My Mum, as with many of our Muslim communities came to the UK over 50 years ago, and others from much longer before then. The 1950s and 1960s saw the greatest influx of people from the former British colonies of Pakistan and India, with very many of them of the Muslim faith. Growing up, I can recall us sharing neighbours and friendships with people of all faith and none… Christians, Jews, Hindus and Sikhs, many of whom were also immigrants and newcomers, so there was a common bond between us. Of exchanging gifts at each others festivals, putting up trees and streamers and bulbs at Christmas, being welcoming towards each other, colours, and laughter and fellowship. Of course there was also an ugly side. Racism, ‘Paki bashing’, discrimination of all sorts, but nevertheless there was solidarity, across all faiths, across trade unions, across neighbourhoods, a determination to continue to work hard, to contribute, to be a part of our shared community.
Then only very recently, things started to become very dark and confusing, with events outside the control and influence of these communities casting a large shadow over them. The rise of a theocracy in Iran with a narrative that named ‘The West’ as perpetrators of past injustices, particularly around its imperial past and present, the accommodation between the Afghanistan government and the former Soviet Union, which the USA didn’t take too kindly to, and started to build and arm networks of fighters in Pakistan to fight a proxy war on its behalf, the fallout from this which led in part to the attack on the twin towers in New York. We were all spectators to this. No one in our communities had heard of the Mujahedeen, Al Qaida, Taliban, and then within a relative short space of time, we were becoming labelled as being in league with them and asked to become apologists for their behaviours.
This turn of events has left many of us in the Muslim community, confused, isolated, dazed and fearful. Old certainties of trust and neighbourliness are becoming fractured. As the US and the UK started to gear itself up for war in Iraq and Afghanistan, with again all of us on the outside of this, only being allowed to spectate, with many hundreds and thousands of us walking side by side against these actions, and all of us being ignored by our political leaders. Then as the fall out of these conflicts started to spill out all over the world, again, our communities have become labelled and picked out as somehow having a responsibility for these crimes.
Younger members of the community, much more able to access knowledge and information, much more aware of globally connected events, bear witness to the hypocrisies of the political classes. And it angers and upsets them. Just a few days ago in Paris, the Charlie Hebdo march had a representative of the Saudi Royal Family standing arm in arm with these who seek to defend free speech, yet the Saudi regime crushes free speech at every opportunity. When they point out these hypocrisies, they are told that they are being radicalised; and their parents encouraged to close down debate and inform on them. Muslims, far from being the perpetrators of violence and hate, have been the biggest victims of it, and have been and are on the forefront of the war on terror. A few weeks ago, 165 school children were murdered in their classroom in Peshawar, a few days ago over 2000 people were slaughtered by terrorists in Nigeria. Pakistan is also caring for the greatest displaced population in the world running into several millions. To be the biggest victims of terrorism and then, at the same time, being signalled out as sympathisers and apologists for it, is a growing and felt injustice.
What has kept the community resilient is our faith. The Prophet has said, that “he who serves his neighbour is the best of men”. There is a famous Hadith (sayings of The Prophet) that tells the story of a local woman who didn’t much like the Prophet, and would always curse and swear at him. It was a daily occurrence and she lived above the route that he would pass every day. On one day, as the Prophet approached the woman’s house, expecting his daily haranguing, he noticed that the woman was not there. When he got back to his home, he asked his companions to check on her. When notified that she had fallen ill, he sent physicians to her house, and himself visited to make sure that she was OK. This example of the Prophet has been uppermost in the minds of my community. That in spite of the attacks against us, the best example we can set is our love for all. This faith, along with the outpouring of support and solidarity from people right across the board, demonstrates that we are not alone, and that through unity and solidarity we can all endure and survive the terrible events that now engulf us all. Malik Gul, Wandsworth Community Empowerment Network.