Westminster Interfaith: Promoting Dialogue Between People of Faith

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

Westminster Interfaith Newsletter

Issue 67 – July 2010

A summer day filled with joy, hope and peace

The 25th Annual Multi-Faith pilgrimage for peace, organised by Westminster Interfaith, the diocesan Inter-Faith agency, took place on Saturday 5th June. Over 300 people took part, some staying for the whole day while others joined or left at various points.

At the opening Mass, in Westminster Cathedral, Archbishop Vincent Nichols spoke of "this great event, which has become a landmark of interreligious relations in London". He paid tribute to the work and inspiration of Cardinal Hume and the Directors of Westminster Interfaith, especially of Brother Daniel Faivre, who started the Pilgrimage in 1986.

The five places of worship we visited were some distance apart so we travelled by foot, bus and train – which showed great organisational skills by the leader and stewards! The procession was led by two Buddhist Monks carrying a banner and beating a gong. After leaving the Cathedral, the group travelled to the West London Synagogue near Marble Arch to attend the Shabbat Service and a Bar Mitzvah. We were given a warm welcome by the Rabbi who gave a short presentation on the Jewish Community of Reform Jews, a history of the beautiful building and an explanation of the Service. We were able to follow the prayers and readings in the Prayer books we were given which were written in Hebrew and English – starting from the back! It was very moving to hear the familiar psalms and readings which Jesus would have known and prayed.

The Bar Mitzvah ceremony was really impressive especially when the young boy gave a presentation of his faith with great confidence and sincerity. We, Christians, were reminded of our Sacrament of Confirmation. There followed a service of blessing and thanksgiving for two babies recalling the presentation of Jesus in the Temple. The music and choir were beautiful throughout so, although the service lasted almost two hours it was not tiring. The dignity, reverence and prayerfulness of all were very striking.

We were then served a very generous vegetarian lunch by the Sachkhand Nanak Dham Society who brought the food to the Synagogue for us. This Society, originating in India, follow Mahraz Darsham Das who taught that "God, man and creation are one" and urged his followers "to strive to unite mankind under the one common banner of love, peace, tolerance and understanding".

Our next stop was the Buddhist Peace Pagoda in Battersea Park which was built in 1984 as a focus for all people seeking world peace. The first Pagodas were built in Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of the Second World War.

We continued our pilgrimage to the Fazl Mosque in Southfields which in 1924 was the first Ahmadiyya Muslim mosque built in Britain. We were welcomed in a spacious garden with delicious food, followed by a visit to the mosque, where the Imam spoke about the history, life and beliefs of the community. Before leaving we were invited to sign a book of condolence for the relatives of those recently killed in Pakistan. This was an act of solidarity with a community whose rule of life, written on the wall of the Mosque, is: "Love for All, Hatred for None".

Our last visit was to the Sikh Gurdwara South London, where we experienced the renowned Sikh hospitality. In the Gurdwara, where the Holy Book is kept in a place of honour, we heard about the life and beliefs of the community whose way to God is through service to humanity.

It was very appropriate that our pilgrimage ended at the grave of Brother Daniel Faivre, who worked with such enthusiasm and dedication for inter-faith dialogue until his death in 2007. The culminating, beautiful moment came when prayers and readings from the various sacred Scriptures were read beside his grave.

It was a day filled with joy, hope and peace. One of the joys was the opportunity to build friendships along the way - "To meet God in friend and stranger" – as the new teaching document of the Catholic Bishops' Conference is entitled.

As Maria Voce, president of the Focolare Movement, has said: "Our way of understanding is not to discover every detail, but to encounter the soul of each people through just one representative".

Maureen Liddy

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