Westminster Interfaith: Promoting Dialogue Between People of Faith

The agency of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Westminster for Interreligious Dialogue

Westminster Interfaith Newsletter

Issue 65 – February 2010

'Religious Philanthropy & Social Action'

On Wednesday, 18th November 2009, the Zoroastrians pulled out all the stops for the seminar on 'Religious Philanthropy & Social Action' at their Rayners Lane Centre – in conjunction with FbRN (Faith-based Regeneration Network).

Speakers from a variety of faiths spoke of the beliefs that lay behind religious philanthropy and it became clear that for most the acquisition of material goods is in practice seen as bringing with it the obligation of sharing with others – not only of one's own group but people in general. Hence the founding and endowment of hospitals, social centres, libraries and other educational institutions for the use of all, irrespective of allegiance, have often been inspired by religious faith of one or other tradition.

The Zoroastrian Centre itself is a case in point. It is used not only by the Zoroastrians themselves but is also available to others. A grade II* listed former cinema building, it is spacious enough to hold a large crowd, and on this occasion it did. A good number of Zoroastrians were present and were gracious and efficient hosts. The speakers were efficiently but discreetly kept to time by Jehangir Sarosh, former President of Religions for Peace – Europe. As it happened, this day had also been chosen for several other high profile Inter Faith Week events and a number of the speakers had to leave early to attend one or other of these. (One was at London Central Mosque, Regents Park, another at City Hall with the Mayor of London).

After the seminar we had been invited if we wished, to attend the Zoroastrian thanksgiving service for the life of the Zoroastrian philanthropist Faridoon Zartoshy who with his younger brother had been instrumental in making possible the purchase and refurbishment of the Centre. The service, centred on an urn in which a fire was kindled and fed with sandalwood, was conducted on-stage and chanted by four mobed (priests) entirely in the early original language which is no longer spoken otherwise than for worship. On the table on which the fire-urn was set there were stones and flowers representing the mineral and vegetative worlds. The four priests represent human and other animate life. It was a very impressive example of the worship of a faith community other than one's own. The evening concluded with a substantial meal.

Sr Hilda

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