Interfaith Statement following recent terrorist attacks

We condemn in the strongest terms terrorism and other acts of violent extremism.  They have no place in a democratic society. We deplore these fundamental acts of inhumanity and our thoughts and prayers are with those who have been affected.

In recent times, in many places around the world – as this week at the Notre-Dame Basilica in Nice in France – people have been murdered at their places of worship.  Such attacks on places of worship are a reminder to stand together and to continue to work together with ever greater urgency against ignorance, prejudice and hatred.  Hatred and violence targeting any community because of its faith and belief are scourges that cannot be tolerated. There must be freedom for all communities to worship and practise their faith freely and without fear.

Terrorists and other violent extremists usually draw on extreme political ideologies or, in some cases, selectively, on religious writings in ways which can distort and pervert their fundamental values and intent. It is vital that there is greater faith literacy within as well as about our different faith traditions and that informed voices within those speak out.

Some acts of terrorism are linked to particular political issues, for example instances of perceived imbalance of rights such those as freedom of expression and freedom of religion, or even linked to a conviction that particular beliefs override such rights. 

Therefore, alongside such security measures as are necessary, it is also vital that there is continuing commitment to education and reasoned debate and discussion, working toward outcomes enabling people of even strongly differing perspectives to live well together. 

We call for even greater focus to be given to tackling hateful discourse wherever it may manifest. We call also for increasing spaces for dialogue – within educational and other civil society institutions as well as within faith communities – about issues over which there is strong disagreement, as well as encouragement to take these issues up within the democratic process.

A statement on behalf of the Board and the Moderators

of the Faith Communities Forum of the Inter Faith Network for the UK

30 October 2020

Interfaith Week

 We’d love to invite you to join us for this year’s National Interfaith Week event sponsored by Cheltenham Interfaith, the University of Gloucestershire and Cheltenham Borough Council.

 

This year we are reflecting together our experience of the pandemic so far. How has this affected our faith and our faith communities? What has been challenging for our faith? How has our faith helped us?

We will watch a number of short videos from members of different faith communities, and have an opportunity to discuss these together in break-out groups, as well as offering our own reflections.

 

The event will take place online on Weds November 11th from 7.15pm – 8.30pm. In order to take part you need to register for your free place through Eventbrite, using this link: https://inter_faith_2020.eventbrite.co.uk You will then be sent the Zoom link so you can join the meeting between 7.00pm and 7.15pm.

 

Usually, when we meet together, sharing food is an important part of the occasion. This year, when you register and during the meeting we’ll be giving information about how we can support the Mayor of Cheltenham’s Foodbank Fund, and we’re delighted that Cheltenham Borough Council have agreed to match the donations which we make up to the value of £400.

We do hope you can join us at this event. Even though it will be very different it seems more important than ever for us to come together and share our thoughts and feelings, whatever our beliefs or faith community.

 

Revd Simon Witcombe
Senior Chaplain, University of Gloucestershire
FCH Campus
Swindon Road,
Cheltenham
GL50 4AZ
T:  01242 714592
M: 07715 041525

Peace Together Walk

MONDAY, 21 SEPTEMBER 2020 FROM 10:00

To celebrate the UN “International Day of Peace” (https://internationaldayofpeace.org/ )
CIF held a “Peace Together Walk” through Cheltenham town centre, starting at Winston Churchill Memorial Gardens (gather from 9.45am) and ending at 2pm at Pittville Pump Room for a Peace Walk Together celebration.

Just a note to say we had a powerful and lovely day today. It was wonderful to have members of the Hindu community with us and the beginning of an annual event feels very much in the making .
Here are some words inspired from today. 

Spirit of Peace 
Here I am today                                                     Humbled before the Spirit of Peace.
Here I breathe today                                           Hopeful inside a Spirit of Peace.
Here I cry today                                                    Tears for need of a Spirit of Peace 
Here I smile today                                               To excite a Spirit of Peace.

Spirit of Peace
Bless our planet in its strangeness and glory
Spirit of Peace  
Bless our journey as a simple story 
Spirit of Peace 
Within and beyond me
Spirit of Peace  
Give us all the eyes to see 
Exactly how a Spirit of Peace could be. 
Many blessings in Peace 

Here is a link to the radio interview Mark gave about the walk

https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/p08qs27g

Listen from 1 Hour 17 minutes in.

Remembering Srebrenica

25th Anniversary Commemoration
South West
This year marks both the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz and the 25th anniversary of the genocide in which 8,372 men and boys in the UN-protected area of Srebrenica were killed purely for being Muslim.
It remains important that we remember these events – Srebrenica Memorial Week is 5th-12th July 2020.

In these unprecedented times, there is a pressing and increasing need to ensure that we stand up to hate, intolerance and prejudice.  Between the events which prompted the Black Lives Matters movement across many countries to the hate crimes committed in the wake of Covid-19, we are seeing more and more public expressions of hatred and injustice and more focus on what divides us.
 
In response to the Covid-19 situation we have moved our Srebrenica genocide commemorations for the South West (including Oxfordshire, Berkshire and Wiltshire) online and invite you to join us marking this reminder of man’s capacity for inhumanity and our ability to learn the lessons from this.  The commemoration will remember all those killed in the Srebrenica genocide, all those killed in acts of inhumanity during the Bosnian war, the 50,000 women and girls who were genocidally raped and all who stood for and stand for stronger communities, understanding, solidarity and peace across the world.  This interactive online event will take place on Friday, 10th July at 18:30:
Register here
As the founder and Chair of Remembering Srebrenica, Dr Waqar Azmi OBE has said:
Though it has been very hard to cancel face-to-face events it has been inspiring to see the various online ideas and innovations our team have created to still commemorate fitting for those victims who were murdered for no other reason than their identity.   We continue to draw strength and inspiration from those who, during the genocide and ethnic cleansing in Europe’s worst atrocity since the second world war, were bold enough to resist an ideology of division, protect their neighbours and speak out for truth and justice.”

Remembering Srebrenica is the UK charity which works to bring the lessons from the Bosnian genocide to the UK.  We work within communities to celebrate upstanders, equip people to challenge hate and intolerance and to remember that, as our theme for this 25th anniversary states, Every Action Matters.

We also have a range of activities available to different organisations and local areas including:
  Publishing the Srebrenica Memorial Statement on your web pages and social media during Memorial Week. Sharing and doing the 11 Every Action Matters personal challenges. Hold a candle lighting and read the Srebrenica prayer Ask your local authority to adopt or reaffirm your commitment to the Srebrenica Council Motion. You can order a Srebrenica flag and fly it (we suggest at half-mast) for this year’s memorial week which runs from 5th-12th July or on Memorial Day itself which is 11th July. Ask your Library Services to have an exhibition in their open spaces when they re-open – materials are available on our website. Inviting a speaker from Remembering Srebrenica to your faith, community or social group. Hold a creative arts and crafts session around the Srebrenica flower and share the results on social media. Email southwest@srebrenica.org.uk for more ideas and suggestions. 

Gay Pride Picnic: Cheltenham May 17 2020

Click here for a list of our LGBTQ+ supporting communities/churches

Like all large gatherings planned for spring and summer 2020, the Gay Pride family picnic planned for May 17 in Pittville Park was cancelled. Which was a shame, as Cheltenham Inter Faith had been hard at work planning a “Inter Faith Space” for the picnic. Right from the start we were delighted with an enthusiastic response from many churches, faith and non-faith/beliefs-based communities within Cheltenham.

We were planning a large (double-pitch) stall with a tented zone for quiet conversations, comfy seating, a craft area and lots of information about faith-related LGBTQ+ support groups online and local. We were thinking of running a couple of meditations, and mostly just hoping to have a stream of volunteers hosting the stall with welcoming smiles and hopefully some meaningful chats.

But then it was cancelled… was that the end of it? No!  Our group continued to expand as we networked and found more supporters. Particular thanks to Sharon at Highbury Church and Stephen and Rachel from the Humanists who had been there at the Pride picnic last year, and who had great contacts. And then … the organisers decided to hold it ONLINE!

What could we do?  At very short notice we gathered those we could into a Zoom hyperspace and managed against all odds to agree a “Welcome Message” from all of us to be posted onto the Pride in Glos facebook site, plus Tom created a Video of us saying “We miss you! We love you! We’ll see you soon.”  Click here to see the video or Click here to see the post on our own Facebook site. 

Click here for the list of Supporters who so enthusiastically supported the venture.

We’ll report back when we have a date for the “actual” picnic and how we get on!

In friendship, Ginny.