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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The 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.
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.
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 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.
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
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
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)
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