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The End of ISIL? - a Talk by Prof. Paul Rogers

On Monday 14th November, Paul Rogers, Emeritus Professor of Peace Studies at the University of Bradford presented a packed Quaker Meeting House, with his view of "The End of ISIL?". He presented  an in depth and knowledgeable assessment of what led to the creation of ISIL, their impact, and a future where "attacks from the margins" of society are more likely as we come to terms with the increased marginalisation of individuals, climate change, population growth and scarcity of resources. A truly thought provoking talk for all who attended.

 

Concord's Annual Peace Service - 2016

On the evening of Wednesday 26th October, individuals from all across Leeds gathered together in the Banqueting  Room of the Civic Hall for Concord's Annual Peace Service. Participants offered prayers, readings and music, alongside the lighting of candles by members of the major faith groups in Leeds, for Peace.

 

The Lord Mayor, Councillor Gerry Harper, and Lady Mayoress, Lynne Scholes, gave a reading and lit the central candle of the display on behalf of all the people of Leeds.

Further photographs from the event, courtesy of Steve Evans, can be viewed here, as can the Programme and the Readings.

 

Paganism and Interfaith

On Monday 26th September,  Prudence Jones, the Interfaith Liaison Officer for The Pagan Federation (England and Wales) came to talk to Concord Interfaith Fellowship and friends, at the Carlton Hill Quaker Meeting House in Central Leeds. She kindly took attendees through the history of the term "Pagan" and the struggle, taking over 20 years, to get Pagans and other minority faiths recognised by the Inter Faith Network.

 

 

40th Anniversary Dinner

On the evening of Thursday 11th August, Concord Interfaith fellowship, along with friends old and new, celebrated its 40th Anniversary with a celebratory dinner at the GNNSJ Gurdwara in Beeston. Attendees were welcomed by the new Jathedar, Pritpal Singh Dhanjal, and the guest speaker for the evening, John Battle, former MP for Leeds West.

Further photographs from the event can be viewed here.

 

Walk of Friendship 2016

On Saturday 9th July, Concord Interfaith Fellowship and friends were joined by Councillor  David Blackburn of Leeds Peacelink on the Annual Walk of Friendship, around the Burley/Hyde Park Area of Leeds.On Saturday 9th July, Concord Interfaith Fellowship and friends were joined by Councillor  David Blackburn of Leeds Peacelink on the Annual Walk of Friendship, around the Burley/Hyde Park Area of Leeds.

Starting at the Quaker Meeting House on Woodhouse Lane, we took a wet walk through the University, visiting St George's Field cemetery, and across Woodhouse Moor to Hyde Park Terrace and St Augustine's Church, Wrangthorn. After that, the weather picked up and we made our way down Hyde Park Terrace, Midland Road and Brudenell Road, where we were subsequently welcomed into the Makkah Masjid (Mosque). Finally we made our way to the Hindu Mandir (Temple) on Alexandra Road, via Thornville Road.

The photographs from this year's walk can be viewed here.

News of this year's Walk even made it into the Yorkshire Evening Post. The article can be viewed here

 

16th July 2016

In Response to Military Intervention in Turkey - Statement from the Dialogue Society

On July 15, Friday, Turkey witnessed a coup attempt by sections of the military, which has left dozens dead and injured. The attempt has been successfully put down and the government is back in control of the country. At the Dialogue Society, we condemn, in the strongest terms, the attempted military coup in Turkey and reiterate that there is no place for military interventions in democracy.

Turkey has long suffered from the anti-democratic reflex of the military. The achievement of free and fair elections where governments are accountable to the public and power changes hands through the ballot box has been Turkey’s most valuable achievement, which should be protected and cherished at all time.

While admitting the scarcity of information at the early hours of the night, President Erdogan and figures close to him were quick to lay blame on the Hizmet movement. This is a predictable pattern, as Erdogan blames almost all oppositional development in Turkey on Hizmet as a pretext to purge state and civil society. Gulen issued a statement early in the night condemning this coup in the strongest terms, adding “[a]s someone who suffered under multiple military coups during the past five decades, it is especially insulting to be accused of having any link to such an attempt. I categorically deny such accusations.” Leading Hizmet NGOs in Turkey and abroad also issued condemnatory statements last night. Hizmet participants have consistently demonstrated categorical condemnation of such anti-democratic practices and showed strong commitment to the rule of law and functioning democracy. Both Fethullah Gülen’s teachings and the Hizmet participants’ works around the world on dialogue, democratic engagement, active citizenship and social cohesion is the embodiment of this commitment.

We hope those accused with trying to overthrow the government will be tried in courts of law and this incident becomes a source of motivation for strengthening Turkey’s democracy. We are particularly concerned that Turkey’s domestic troubles are used as a source of polarisation of the Turkish-speaking communities overseas and have already received reports from members of hate crime originating out of the UK. We encourage anyone who witnesses hate crime to report it to the police immediately.


15th July 2016

Bastille Day Attack in Nice - Statement from the Co-Chairs and Vice Chairs of the Inter Faith Network

Our neighbour France has again suffered an atrocity which leaves in its wake dozens dead and injured and a community and country in mourning. Our thoughts and prayers are with all affected by this cowardly and horrendous attack.

Such attacks are designed to rupture the fabric of civil society - not just in France but throughout Europe and beyond: to create suspicion, fear and hatred.

It is vital that in the UK we continue to work for a society which is marked by commitment to tackle tough issues with honesty and constructiveness and to work peacefully to resolve disagreement. Extreme voices and actions have no part in this.

Communities will, and must, continue to reject and stand against brutal violence where it is claimed by perpetrators to be in the name of their religion.

It is vital, too, that we support communities that may be rendered vulnerable by events overseas or at home. There must be no room for prejudice which singles out any community because of criminal actions carried out by a few in the name of its religion.

Our thoughts turn back to France and indeed to all countries around the world affected by terrorism. In the UK, many will be holding vigils and times of prayer. We join our prayers to theirs.


28th June 2016

The EU Referendum - supporting one another and bridge building: Statement from the Co-Chairs and Vice-Chairs of the Inter Faith Network for the UK

On Friday, the results of the European Union Referendum were announced. The UK has voted, by a majority of overall numbers of votes cast, to leave the European Union. 

There are rapidly moving discussions and strongly held views on the issue.

An immediate need is extending support to those who have been targeted with abuse in the wake of the vote, including some members of the Polish community and also people from other ethnicities and of a number of faiths, including Muslim and Sikh. This abuse and hostility is entirely at odds with the values of tolerance, valuing of diversity, and mutual respect.  IFN’s member bodies, like many others around the UK, will no doubt be finding ways to reach out and to be supportive at this difficult time.

We are entering a period when the need for bridge building within society will be more important than ever. Faith and inter faith organisations have an extremely important role to play in this as well as in contributing to the debate about future identity of the UK.


David Randolph HornJohn SummerwillThe Executive has appointed the Revd Dr David Randolph-Horn (left) and John Summerwill (right) as Acting Co-Chairs of Concord, following the retirement of Simon Phillips as Chair.


 

29 March 2016

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM: Statement from the Co-Chairs and Vice-Chairs of the Inter Faith Network for the UK

Religious freedom is an increasingly significant issue for the UK, as for other countries around the world.

The eve of the Easter Bank Holiday weekend saw the murder of a shopkeeper in Glasgow, Asad Shah from the Ahmaddiya Muslim Community, which police have said appears linked to his religious beliefs as expressed on social media in Easter greetings to customers.

Glasgow’s community has stood together in the face of that attack, rallying through the #thatisnotwhoweare campaign. The murder, by a Muslim, has been described as sectarian. It has been condemned by bodies such as the Muslim Council of Britain and others.

National faith communities in the UK seek to respond to incidents here and also to support those around the world whose religious freedom is truncated, often brutally, including through murders and terrorist attacks, such as, most recently, the appalling Easter day attacks in Lahore, and atrocities in other parts of the world. Attacks on, or intimidation of, groups and individuals of other beliefs is an extreme form of restriction of the religious freedom of others. We deplore these in the strongest terms. A number of Inter Faith Network for the UK member inter faith bodies have as a key aim the raising of awareness of the importance of religious freedom. All the member bodies of the Inter Faith Network for the UK, through their work to promote inter faith understanding and cooperation, make an important contribution to that.

One of the key principles of the Inter Faith Network is of respecting other people’s freedom within the law to express their beliefs and convictions http://www.interfaith.org.uk/code We must be free to disagree, including in relation to matters of religious belief, but, as the Inter Faith Network code also says, we should work to prevent disagreement leading to conflict and to avoid violence in our relationships. Let us stand firm by these values, speak out against extreme voices and violent actions, encouraging education and dialogue, and working together on the basis of our common values for increased understanding, cooperation and harmonious coexistence.


TRIBUTES TO THE LATE HARBANS SINGH SAGOO (1941-2016)

We regret to have to report the death in January of Harbans Singh Sagoo, one of the most outstanding leaders of interfaith dialogue in Leeds and a good friend to Concord.

Jocelyn Brookes, the Secretary of the Leeds Faiths Forum, of which Harbans was at one time Chair, said of him:
“Harbans was a very generous and spiritual man who loved God and his fellow human beings. He worked tirelessly for God through his commitment to his faith and to his Gurdwara as well as through his inter faith work and his massive contribution to the City of Leeds. He will be greatly missed by so very many people from all walks of life but we can feel privileged that his life touched ours and that we are better people because of that.

Harbans is safe in the love of God and we extend our sincere condolences to his family in their great loss.”

At his funeral on the 13th January Canon Charles Dobbin, Chair of the Leeds Faiths Forum, gave the following address:

I am honoured to be asked to speak today about Harbans, a noble man of immense stature, a man whose faith inspired and shone through all he did.

In 1973 Harbans with his family left Nairobi and his work in air traffic control to start a new life in Leeds. But more than succeeding in this, he went on to become a major influence for good, and a major influence in creating the degree of understanding between faiths that exists here today.

He has told me himself how criticism and mockery of Sikh customs and dress impelled him to speak about Sikhism in schools, and meet hostile reaction with truth, courtesy and information. He won the day. This characterised his many appearances in schools, organizations, inter faith Question Time sessions with Sixth Formers and other places.

Harbans worked tirelessly in inter faith dialogue and cooperation, being a member of Concord until 1982. This work, primarily of dialogue, was complemented by his involvement of Leeds Faiths Forum working more with the Council, and then in the very effective Yorkshire and Humber Faiths Forum. Along with this came inter faith work on an international scale, involving meetings with the heads of faith communities across the world.

I knew Harbans in Leeds Faiths Forum. He was Chair before me, a giant to follow — a giant because he had developed the relationship with the City Council through the Equalities Assembly with which he worked tirelessly, and also with Voluntary Action Leeds. But above all he was a giant because he was a man of shining integrity, goodness, interest and love. His faith and love were a light; they were water in a thirsty land.

He was the person who had the idea for the current Faith and Public Health Network being set up by Leeds Faiths Forum along with the Leeds University and the Director of Public Health, whereby health professionals can come to faith communities and give information about health issues in a context where people feel safe. That was the beginning. A few weeks ago I visited Harbans here at the Gurdwara to discuss how things could go forward. He had invited people who work in the community in Chapeltown. They argued how local communities and faith groups could work from the bottom to effect much health care, information and preventative care. Harbans had a vision for people being enabled. That meeting has transformed the way we are moving forward with the health project.

Harbans’ imagination was endless. So were his contacts. Was there anyone whom Harbans, through friends and relations, did not know? Perhaps it was understandable that we just happened to have the use and full cooperation of Leeds Met (as it was then) for the inter faith environment conference. But when I told him that I was going to India to lead a retreat, and would like to visit Amritsar while I was there, he introduced me to the man in charge of the restoration of the Golden Temple to have a personal guide to what was going on and being achieved.

Harbans’ thought could reach high, but he could get his hands dirty. After the Environment Conference we put talk into
practice by taking part in a Clean Up project with Groundworks in various parts of Leeds. Harbans led the way in high viz jacket with bin bag and saw in hand. And no personal visit to Harbans’ home was complete without a visit to the garden and explanation about the way he was developing it, the fruit  trees representing family members, the vegetable garden that was his passion.

So what does all this say?

Harbans had a continuing burning interest in what helps the community.
He had his maker’s love of creation
He was humble and loving head of a family
He had faith that turns ambition to succeed, into the power to shape the community for good,
to enable  people to take responsibility for their own lives and communities.
He had faith that drew people to God from whichever tradition they may have started,
faith that was so transparent to God that he became the means of God being present among us.


STATEMENT BY LEEDS FAITHS FORUM & CONCORD IN RESPONSE TO PARIS ATTACKS

We at Leeds Faiths Forum, which represents nine Faiths in Leeds, stand alongside the people of Paris at this time and offer our deepest sympathy to them, especially those injured and bereaved through the extremist attacks on Friday.  We are joined by Concord, also involving a large number of people of different faiths in Leeds, who wish to be fully associated with this statement.

We are appalled at Friday’s extremist attacks in Pais on innocent people. In their cruelty, undiscriminating hate and resort to violence rather than dialogue, we see these attacks as completely contradicting the fundamental humane and moral values that are taught by all faiths, including Islam.

We particularly stand in solidarity with the Muslim community, the vast majority of whom wish to work for peace and to live by the values of truth, compassion, mercy and obedience to God, and who have stated publicly their revulsion at Friday’s atrocity. As they face increased vulnerability and wrestle with these stresses in their community, we see them as our brothers and sisters and are deeply distressed on their behalf.

We perceive ISIS to be seeking their ends by creating a climate of fear and fostering division in our society. They are fighting a subversive battle within our minds and in our community in an attempt to create conditions for their distorted version of Islam to flourish. We believe that the wider community must not let itself become fertile ground for seeds of division and fear to grow. This is what gives urgency to the dialogue and cooperation between faiths that so many of us are engaged in.

The Rev’d Canon Charles Dobbin MBE, Chair, Leeds Faiths Forum (m07753359766)

Dr Simon Phillips, Chair of Concord Interfaith Fellowship

16.11.15


STATEMENT BY LEEDS FAITHS FORUM & CONCORD ON REFUGEES

While many faith communities and organizations have given their individual view of the Refugee crisis, inter faith organizations Leeds Faiths Forum and Concord, both dedicated to developing inter faith dialogue and cooperation, also collectively wish to support all that is being done to welcome  and help refugees, and to emphasise two points:

Firstly there is a strong tradition of the United Kingdom receiving refugees, of which many of us are personally the beneficiaries. Such hospitality  is part of our religious duty. Without refugees entering our country throughout  our history, we would not have the strengths we have today. We are only too aware that to support help for refugees means being prepared to take direct action personally.

Secondly, the Multi Faith service at Leeds Minster on 13 September made it very clear that the refugee crisis is only one of a number of issues where the different Faiths are inescapably involved together by belief and by circumstances. We are only too aware of the fears that some in our society have of immigration and of the divisive effect this could have. This means we can no longer see inter faith cooperation as an optional extra, but must harness the power of Faith to transform our world for the better, and must not allow ourselves simply to be seen as the cause of division and violence. Along with the practical help given, a cooperative approach of the different Faiths is in itself a contribution to addressing the problem.

The Rev'd Canon Charles Dobbin MBE, Chair of Leeds Faiths Forum
Dr Simon Phillips, Chair of Concord

29.9.15


Lord Singh delivered the Peter Bell Memorial Lecture at the Leeds Civic Hall in March 2015

Jaskiran Kaur Mehmi, Lord Indarjit Singh and Dr Simon Phillips (click on the picture to enlarge it)

Group Group

 


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