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

25th Annual Multi-faith Pilgrimage for Peace, 5th June 2010

Over 200 people, comprised of many different faiths, met at Westminster Cathedral to take part in the pilgrimage. This started with a Mass celebrated by Archbishop Vincent Nichols, Bishop John Arnold and Mgr Martin Hayes, Archbishop Vincent's private secretary. The Archbishop extended a warm welcome to all those present and in his homily gave encouragement to the pilgrimage members. It was good to see the non-Catholics going up to receive blessings at the time of the communion of the faithful. I was delighted to meet up again with Harold, whom I had first met on the Forum for Discussion of Israel and Palestine study tour to Israel. The entire group, thus united in prayer and faith, then proceeded to the West London Synagogue.

There again the welcome was whole-hearted and we were all invited to attend the Shabbat Service. There was to be an unexpected bonus for us as, in addition to the normal service, a Bar Mitzvah and two baby blessings also took place. This Synagogue is in the 'Reform' tradition of Judaism as was evident from fact that there was no gender discrimination within the congregation and there was also a lady Rabbi. The young boy, Archie Phillips, was most impressive in the way he delivered his Torah reading and his Bar Mitzvah talk. At an age when voice breaking is imminent he came through, what must be quite an ordeal, with flying colours. The sermon bravely addressed the news of the recent troubles about Gaza and was most informative.

A vegetarian lunch was then provided by the Sachkhand Nanak Dham International. This was the third warm welcome that the group had received and the hospitality that was extended to us all throughout the day by all the different faith groups called to mind the 'hospitality of Abraham' (Gen 18:1-15) Let us pray that those who provided such hospitality are rewarded as richly as Abraham was. The party then proceeded to the London Peace Pagoda in Battersea Park. The Pagoda has four large gilded bronze sculptures of Buddha – one on each of its four sides – and has been a landmark along the Thames for 25 years.

More buses and a long walk resulted in our arrival at the London (Fazl) Mosque. Before entering the Mosque we were again greeted with great hospitality. There was plenty to eat and drink and, for those of us with tiring legs, a place to sit down. This Mosque, built in 1924, was the first to be built in London, and is the place of worship for the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, whose motto is 'Love for All Hatred for None'. It is relatively small and this meant that we entered it in two groups and the Imam gave his address twice. A welcome pack was provided and I shall study this in detail in the next few days.

We were again welcomed and fed at the next stop. This was the South London Gurdwara where the Sikh community invited us to partake in the food and drink provided by their 'open kitchen', which acts as a social-levelling device. We then went to a service consisting of prayer and music. It had been a wonderful day and was most uplifting, inspiring one to engage in more interfaith works in return for all the hospitality that we had received.

Mike Palowkar

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