Woking People Of Faith

Diverse Beliefs United Action

In Times Of Need, Where is Spirituality?

In Times Of Need, Where is Spirituality? In a celebration of unity and resilience, the Interfaith Forums in Surrey orchestrated a captivating event to mark Interfaith Week. Titled "In times of need where is spirituality?" the event aimed to create a space where the power of faith and spirituality in supporting individuals during challenging times took centre stage. The opening address was given by Michael More-Molyneux, Lord Lieutenant of Surrey who also chaired the event. The primary goal was to showcase the transformative impact of faith, inviting dynamic speakers to share their profound insights. Attendees were encouraged not just to listen but to actively engage in discussions, fostering an environment of shared understanding and mutual support. The six speakers were Revd Chris Richardson (Christian), Julie Siddiqi MBE (Muslim), Nishi Joshi-Bhatt (Hindu), Gagandeep Singh (Sikh), Mandisa Taylor (Baha’i) and Liz Sawyer (Jewish) Revd Chris Richardson, vicar of St. Martin’s Church, Camberley stated that we all need to feel loved, that we matter and that we care for others. He quoted the Bible ‘Faith without deeds is dead’ (James 2: 14-26). He went on to give examples of good deeds in his parish of Old Dean, Camberley. These included combating food poverty by means of a free food store. The demand was such that when the supply of food ran out, his church partnered with a local greengrocer who supplied more food at cost price. He also set up a free community breakfast for people living alone. Julie Siddiqi is a well-known campaigner working with faith communities across the UK with a focus on gender issues, Jewish-Muslim relations, and social action. After a peace greeting in Arabic and Hebrew, she explained that spirituality means different things to different people. It was important to reflect on what is most important in our lives. What does God want from us? We need to be acting out our role but also reflecting on its direction, especially serving others. In this regard she was the founder of Sadqa Day, a Muslim-led focus on social action. Her guiding principles based on the teaching of Prophet Muhammad were spread peace, feed the people, and pray at night (when no-one knows you’re doing it). Nishi Joshi-Bhatt is a dancer and choreographer; she is also involved as a student in the Life and Belief Centre at the University of Surrey. She stated that spirituality in Hinduism is basically knowing that we are all connected through one divine source of energy. However, people sometimes use ‘faith’ to divide each other. Our intellect tends to use short cuts in dealing with inter-personal relationship. We need to be aware of this and correct it by behaving compassionately. Gagndeep Singh was the first turbaned officer in the UK prison service. He stated that Guru Nanak, the 15th century founder of Sikhism, brought the priesthood into everyday life. His motto was serve humanity, in particular the needy, and you will get a seat in the court of the Lord. When interacting with people one shouldn’t ask their religion but rather see them in a divine light. He showed a video of a Hindu food centre at work during the recent Covid epidemic. Mandisa Taylor is a former children’s program TV presenter and has been a representative of the UN special session on children. Baha’ullah, the founder of the Baha’i faith, worked for spiritual growth and the betterment of society. Key tenets of the faith are to seek knowledge of the divine and provide service to humanity. She related an old Chinese tale illustrating that life’s events are not obviously either fortunate or unfortunate. Both our achievements and our suffering on the way tend to be transient and provide opportunities for spiritual growth. Liz Sawyer is a former Chairman of North West Surrey Synagogue in Weybridge. She is much involved in Mitzvah Day, an annual faith-led day of social action, which took place recently. This was set up in order to fulfil the Jewish concepts of Tikkun Olam (repairing the world) and Gemilut Hasadim (giving loving kindness), based on God’s commandments. Some 55,000 people of Jewish and other faiths across the UK came together to serve the needs of disadvantaged people. The activities included arts and crafts, eco projects, visiting care homes, doing gardening work for elderly people, litter picking, etc. At the Runnymede Trust they collected donations of food items purchased from supermarkets. An important part of Tikkun Olam is also to empower people to support themselves. Following the six speakers there was a short Q&A session for burning questions before attendees were split up into breakout groups, which were facilitated by volunteers from the different interfaith forums in Surrey. There were detailed discussions about interfaith work and how it can be progressed with examples of working with schools and organising walking pilgrimages between places of worship. Following the plenary session our 86 attendees continued their discussions and networking with a warm vegetarian meal. As the echoes of Interfaith Dialogue linger, the Interfaith Forums in Surrey are poised to build on this momentum. Plans are underway to continue fostering dialogue, understanding, and collaborative initiatives that transcend the borders of faith. Some feedback from attendees: “More spaces like this are needed to bring unity in the community.” “A very worthwhile event, lots of positive ideas, constructive concerns/questions.” “Some valuable insights into the relationship between spirituality and action.” “I found the event very interesting and was pleased to discover how much interfaith co-operation takes place.” “I found the event extremely interesting and very well run. Talking to other people there while we had a meal was also very informative.” The event took place at the University of Surrey.

Date: Sunday 26th November 2023

Location: University of Surrey, Stag Hill, GU2 7XH

Time: 3pm