The major event for the 2016 Interfaith Week was the ‘Welcoming of the Outsider’. It was an interfaith response to the current Refugee Crisis. We were delighted at the high university student response. The event was jointly arranged by CIF, the University and Cheltenham Borough Council. ‘Scriptural Reasoning’ formed part of the evening led by Dr Georgina Jardim when we looked at teachings about welcoming the stranger to the Koran and Bible.
A Syrian couple spoke of their welcome locally after the flight from Syria. We watched a film made by students about the work of GARAS (Gloucestershire Association for Refugees and Asylum Seekers) and another about celebrities whose families had found welcome refuge in our country in the past.
There was plenty of time for group discussion and interacting with local people of all faiths. It was an excellent evening that contributed greatly to local interfaith understanding and was well covered by BBC Radio Gloucester.
In February there was a talk entitled Living in turbulent times – a Baha’i viewpoint by our own Sarah Mar who is also Secretary of the Local Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of Cheltenham.
The CIF AGM was held in March and very well attended. New committee members were introduced and confirmed in place. The keynote speaker was Dame Janet Trotter, the Lord Lieutenant of Gloucestershire. She reiterated her commitment to Interfaith and challenged us to reach out beyond our usual audience into the wider faith communities. Dame Janet reminded us of the importance of linking into other community organisations especially those of the local authority and offered her services if we need help in making contacts. After the formal portion of the evening finished many members stayed on for refreshements and it was an excellent opportunity for new people to introduce themselves and get to know other members.
Members of Cheltenham Interfaith were among the guests invited by Gloucestershire Liberal Jewish Community to celebrate their Passover Seder in Cheltenham.
Mr Jatinder Singh Birdi Chairperson of the Warwick District Faiths Forum and Co-Chair of the Inter Faith Network of the UK spoke on “The roles of a local inter faith body – the work of Warwick District Faiths Forum”. This covered an enormous number of activities and the audience were left wondering how our speaker ever managed to find time for his day job. Like Dame Janet Jatinder emphasied the importance of working with other local organisations in reaching out to the wider community.
Gloucestershire’s first official commemoration of the Srebrenica genocide was held on Thursday 6 July at the Municipal Offices, Cheltenham.The event was jointly hosted by Cheltenham Borough Council and charitable initiative ‘Remembering Srebrenica’. Unfortunately the attendance was less than hoped for but the evening was extremelt moving. The theme for the 2017 commemoration, which was officially marked Tuesday 11 July, was ‘Breaking the silence: gender and genocide.’
Cheltenham’s commemoration opened with an exhibition of the Women of Bosnia and was followed by an act of remembrance. The event also included short talks on lessons learned from Srebrenica, and a testimony which was followed by candle lighting by members of different faith and community groups and a minute of silence.