“From Hate to Love, from War to Peace” Last Wednesday we took one step in the continuing dream of religion – “Peace with Justice and Mercy.” At London Central Mosque on the afternoon of 1 February, we began Interfaith Religious Harmony Week. I walked through the snow to the Peace Garden near my home. I stood by the cherry trees we planted and think now of the Japanese movie, Ikuru, to live. In which an old man learns he will die in a few months, and wants to do something meaningful before his death. I had worked hard to make this conference meaningful. It was a “half success.” Over 50 people were there from 8 different religious traditions. Four international interfaith groups agreed to take the next step toward cooperation with leaders meeting on 14 March. But I am very conscious, it is such a small step. As I leave the Peace Garden, a robin is singing on a tree top. How good it is to stop …. and be still ….
I thank Omar Saddique and Sheikh Fawzi for welcoming us. They brought a feeling of honest acceptance and friendship. I thank James LaForest, who came and reported on our meeting for “Positive News.” His report helps to guide mine.
Proposed by King Abdullah II of Jordan and endorsed by the United Nations General Assembly, “World Interfaith Harmony Week” is celebrated the first week in February. Hosted by the London Central Mosque, our theme was HEALING THE WORLD.
After a brief tour of the Mosque led by Omar Saddique, Sheikh Fawzi opened our programme chanting an Islamic Prayer. Then Anglican Rev. Alan Race of the World Congress of Faiths www.worldfaiths.org , introduced the first panel. This was composed of three leaders of the Abrahamic Faiths. First, Rabbi Jackie Tabick, Chairman of the World Congress of Faiths. She focused on healing the ecology of the One Planet we share: religion’s need to inspire humanity to cherish “mother nature,” rather than simply exploit her.
She was followed by the Rev. Peter Owen Jones, of BBC’s “Around the World in 80th Faiths.” Jones found that Western Religions often do not treat nature as sacred. Where Eastern Religions find cows, monkeys and all creation sacred, Christian practice inspired William Blake to write, “A robin redbreast in a cage, puts all heaven in a rage.” Jones found Dharmic traditions, especially the Jains, practice “World Healing,” finding holiness in animals and in the earth itself.
Imam Abduljalil Sajid, President of UK Religions for Peace www.religionsforpeace.org, focused more on the personal aspect of “Healing the World:” the importance of your spiritual life: finding forgiveness from God, then forgiving and loving yourself, that you may have forgiveness and compassion toward others. “First, Islam treats peace as the ultimate goal of human life, almost synonymous with salvation. … Second, Islam looks at tranquility and peace of mind, an inner confidence born of faith. … Third … is universal peace . … According to the sayings of our Prophet, … virtues … will prevail, the face of the earth cleaned of filth, and universal peace secured.” It is vital not to dispair. “Giving up hope of the Mercy of Allah is a crime in itself.”
After questions and comments from the audience, we observed the designated time for Muslim prayer. Many joined the prayers downstairs under the great dome of the Mosque, followed by tea.
The second panel represented the Dharmic Faiths, Buddhist, Sikh and Hindu. Ajit Singh, International Association for Religious Freedom www.iarf.net, told us that in the Sikh faith there is a link between the individual and the elements. To damage nature means “we are damaging ourselves and all other beings.”
Kiran Bali is a Hindu from West Yorkshire and a leader in United Religions Initiative www.uri.org . She discussed the meaning of Dharma as “righteous conduct,” and Ahimsa, “non-injury,” the practice of Gandhi in not harming others in thought or deed. Gandhi taught, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”
Yann Lovelock, a Buddhist from Birmingham, is active in the British National Interfaith Network. Yann stressed the openness of Dharmic Faiths to a variety of beliefs. He has written an article on the Council of Dharmic Faiths which has been organized as a parallel to the “Three Faiths Forum” of Abrahamic Faiths. This spring he will spend three months at Fo Guang Shan Monastery in Taiwan.
In the words of James LaForest, “While the Abrahamic Traditions offered ideas that highlighted the theme of responsibility, the Dharmic perspectives fell largely into the theme of interdependence. In their presentations, all of the speakers returned to the notion that keeping both these themes in mind is vital to finding solutions to the major problems that we face today. ”
At the close of the afternoon, the participants unanimously a declaration of “Forgiveness, Compassion and Oneness.” (attached) David Horner, Religions for Peace, UK, gave the closing thanks, and urged all to consider joining at least one of the sponsoring interfaith communities.
Blessings and hope,
Rev Richard Boeke, Chair, British Chapter, International Assoc. for Religious Freedom www.iarf.net
16 St. Mary’s Gardens, Horsham RH12 1JP
for more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone Rev. O’Connor, 020 7837 4472
Six photos are attached:
1) Panel of Abrahamic Faiths – Omar Seddiki, Imam Sajid, Rev. Alan Race, Rabbi Tabick (speaking), Rev. Peter Owen Jones.
2) Attendees, World Interfaith Harmony Week, 1 Feb, London Central Mosque
3) London Central Mosque viewed from Regents Park
4) Moon rise over London Central Mosque
5) Dharmic Panel: Yann Lovelock, Ajit Singh MBE, Kiran Bali MBE
6) Rev Dr. Alan Race, editor of Interreligious Insight, and Sheikh Seddiki Sidi Fawzi, London Central Mosque.