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8th Annual Interfaith Lecture 13 November 2019 by Mike Haines of

Mike introduced himself and spoke of his brother David and the great childhood they had together with loving parents who were in the armed services and so they travelled around the world as their parents moved from place to place.  He and his brother were close and they both joined the RAF as soon as they could.  When they left the services Mike became a Mental Nurse but his brother found his vocation in helping people and was soon in danger zones helping refugees and was known as a caring person who was great at working out problems.  In 2013 his brother was sent to Syria to help in the refugee crisis there.

 

On the 11 March 2013 he was travelling with another aid worker, Frederico, when they were ambushed and attacked and beaten and taken captive. News was sparse but fellow captors praised David as he kept everyone spirits up and organised prayer meetings.  It was a few months more of worry before they had it confirmed that David and Frederico had been captured by ISIS/Daesh but were still alive.  The captives were constantly on the move, being beaten and tortured with very little medical care.  David kept everyone’s hopes up attracted the attention of the guards and even trying to negotiate with them which resulted in more beatings.  Frederico was released but not David as the UK refuses to pay ransoms as this is a source of income for terrorists. For 18 months his family hoped for the best but expected the worst.

 

On the 2 September 2014 a US Hostage was killed by the terrorists on TV and David was in a line up behind the killing.  His picture was shown around the world. On the 13 September 2019 it was David’s turn to be executed on TV and die despite the work he was trying to do to help people.   Mike was in bed when the call came through at about 11pm and his whole family had gathered at his house and so he had to gather them together and tell them what had happened.  He said it was the worst thing he ever had to do to tell his mother the news.  David was a hero but he wasn’t perfect.  Hate was his first reaction but then he remembered the saying that “Evil flourishes when good men do nothing”. From then on he thought only of Unity.  He decided he had to fight the extremists and stop them bringing hate into our lives. ISIS was not Islam.  Islam is a peaceful religion and tries to help and improve the world.  As the Klu Klux Klan does not reflect Christianity so ISIS does not reflect Islam.  Extremists want people to see only the differences and we must not let them win.  Extremists will do anything to destroy our way of life.  Scared people will do anything and

ISIS reflects the action of the Nazis.

 

We must talk with each other and break down the barriers between ourselves.   An alloy metal is much stronger than a base metal e.g steel and iron.  So we must make ourselves into a strong alloy.  One of Mike’s best friends is Imam Shanawaz and they have developed a wonderful relationship. We have to stop the cycle of hatred and it is sad to see so much hate and intolerance in the UK.  Mike asked why do I not hate?  I hate the people who killed my brother.  Why did they kill him, was it because he was a Christian, British? No! It was because he didn’t matter to them and was a nothing even though he was trying to help the refugees in Syria.  ISIS have killed many Muslims more than any other Faith.  What can we do?  Extend the hand of friendship. UN Leader Khofi Anan said “Ignorance is the handmaid of ignorance”.  Start something here today which can really make a difference.  Mike is on the ISIS death list as they don’t like what he says as they know that he can destroy their hate.  His mother died within a year of David’s death and his father who had been diagnosed with dementia got much worse within a few months, they too were killed by ISIS, but I couldn’t hate and point the finger at Islam the religion of peace. “Everyday”, Mike says,” I try to be a better man” that is what we all have to do

Mike introduced himself and spoke of his brother David and the great childhood they had together with loving parents who were in the armed services and so they travelled around the world as their parents moved from place to place.  He and his brother were close and they both joined the RAF as soon as they could.  When they left the services Mike became a Mental Nurse but his brother found his vocation in helping people and was soon in danger zones helping refugees and was known as a caring person who was great at working out problems.  In 2013 his brother was sent to Syria to help in the refugee crisis there.

 

On the 11 March 2013 he was travelling with another aid worker, Frederico, when they were ambushed and attacked and beaten and taken captive. News was sparse but fellow captors praised David as he kept everyone spirits up and organised prayer meetings.  It was a few months more of worry before they had it confirmed that David and Frederico had been captured by ISIS/Daesh but were still alive.  The captives were constantly on the move, being beaten and tortured with very little medical care.  David kept everyone’s hopes up attracted the attention of the guards and even trying to negotiate with them which resulted in more beatings.  Frederico was released but not David as the UK refuses to pay ransoms as this is a source of income for terrorists. For 18 months his family hoped for the best but expected the worst.

 

On the 2 September 2014 a US Hostage was killed by the terrorists on TV and David was in a line up behind the killing.  His picture was shown around the world. On the 13 September 2019 it was David’s turn to be executed on TV and die despite the work he was trying to do to help people.   Mike was in bed when the call came through at about 11pm and his whole family had gathered at his house and so he had to gather them together and tell them what had happened.  He said it was the worst thing he ever had to do to tell his mother the news.  David was a hero but he wasn’t perfect.  Hate was his first reaction but then he remembered the saying that “Evil flourishes when good men do nothing”. From then on he thought only of Unity.  He decided he had to fight the extremists and stop them bringing hate into our lives. ISIS was not Islam.  Islam is a peaceful religion and tries to help and improve the world.  As the Klu Klux Klan does not reflect Christianity so ISIS does not reflect Islam.  Extremists want people to see only the differences and we must not let them win.  Extremists will do anything to destroy our way of life.  Scared people will do anything andISIS reflects the action of the Nazis.

We must talk with each other and break down the barriers between ourselves.   An alloy metal is much stronger than a base metal e.g steel and iron.  So we must make ourselves into a strong alloy.  One of Mike’s best friends is Imam Shanawaz and they have developed a wonderful relationship. We have to stop the cycle of hatred and it is sad to see so much hate and intolerance in the UK.  Mike asked why do I not hate?  I hate the people who killed my brother.  Why did they kill him, was it because he was a Christian, British? No! It was because he didn’t matter to them and was a nothing even though he was trying to help the refugees in Syria.  ISIS have killed many Muslims more than any other Faith.  What can we do?  Extend the hand of friendship. UN Leader Khofi Anan said “Ignorance is the handmaid of ignorance”.  Start something here today which can really make a difference.  Mike is on the ISIS death list as they don’t like what he says as they know that he can destroy their hate.  His mother died within a year of David’s death and his father who had been diagnosed with dementia got much worse within a few months, they too were killed by ISIS, but I couldn’t hate and point the finger at Islam the religion of peace. “Everyday”, Mike says,” I try to be a better man” that is what we all have to do

"Put the Kettle On October 2019 Kirkcaldy

“Put the Kettle On”

Kirkcaldy Central Mosque 12 October 2019

 

A joint event was held in Kirkcaldy by the Central Mosque and Fife Interfaith Group on the afternoon of the 12 October 2019.  It was well attended by about 30 people of 5 different faiths and the object was to interact in an informal way and try and find out more about each other. 

 

The event started with a short presentation by Iain Liston, Chairman of Fife Interfaith Group, stressing the purpose of Interfaith as a means to achieve greater understanding between different Faiths and Communities in Fife.  After this Imam Mansoor Mahmood gave a presentation which explained the purpose of a Mosque not only as a religious centre but also as a community centre. It is here that the five daily prayers are held and also classes to teach the children about Islam and the Koran.   It is also a centre where everyone can meet for socials and meetings and is open to anyone of any faith who wishes to visit and even pray in his own way there.  At the end of the presentation the Imam showed the final plans for new the Mosque which is still under construction and this is hoped to be completed by December next year. The plans were very interesting and they were inclusive of the general community not exclusive to the Muslim community and included a play area for all children. This presentation was followed by a lively question and answer session.

 

There were 6 stalls representing Islam, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Fife Interfaith Group, Kirkcaldy Food Bank, NHS and Dementia Friendly for people to look at and discuss with the stall holders.  Excellent refreshments were available including some delicious homemade Asian treats which were enjoyed by all and there were many lively conversations among those who attended.  Everyone left feeling uplifted and with a greater understanding of what we all have in common.

Visit to Edinburgh Gurdwara 9 November 2019

Fife Interfaith Group’s first event of the 2019 Scottish Interfaith Week was a visit to the Gurdwara in Edinburgh.  In fact it happened the day before the start of Interfaith Week but this was because the visit coincided with the 550th Celebration of the birth of Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji.

 

On arrival at the Gurdwara a former church situated in Leith, there was a ceremonial washing of the steps attended by a large crowd of Sikhs obviously enjoying it all.   After the ceremony was over and others had entered with bare feet on the wet steps on a cold day, the rest of us entered and were able to take our shoes off inside.  To our surprise the floor was very warm and it appears that there is now underfloor heating so people do not get cold feet, real luxury!  Unusually it was not just the women who had to cover their heads but square scarves were available for men to cover their hair as well demonstrating their well known belief in equality in treatment of gender.

 

The welcome was warm and friendly and the Langar Hall was full of Sikh families dressed in traditional clothing who were having a great family day out.  Visitors were taken to an adjoining room and there we sat down and soon were given talks about Sikhism and how the Gurdwara is open to all Faiths and anyone who needs help.  Sikhs are renown for their feeding of those in need and after the talks were over we were all treated to a delicious meal including some really tasty sweets.

 

After this we were free to explore the Gurdwara and made our way upstairs to the Diwan Hall which was a sparsely furnished room with an altar one end on which laid the Sikh’s Holy Book containing the teachings of their founder.  A lady was there reciting verses from the book and evidently on any day of celebration there will be readings all day long from the scriptures.  Although sparsely decorated the floor was covered by a plush red carpet and concealed lighting reflected subtle colours on the wall and the altar adorned very tastefully. There was a lovely quiet spirit in the room and was a stark contrast to all the noise and celebration taking place down stairs.

 

A really enjoyable visit to help understand the Sikh Community who have such high ideals to help and understand others.

Talk on

Becoming Dementia Friendly – What’s In It for you?

 

Thank you so much for inviting me along to your meeting.  I am delighted to have this opportunity to give you information about the dementia Friendly Fife Project and I hope to inspire you to get involved and become a dementia friend.

Before I go into the details of the Project I’d like to pose you a question.

Imagine for a minute that you have been diagnosed with dementia. How would you like to live your life? Would you want to be able to do the same things you have always done or do you think you would need to shut yourself up at home to stay safe and avoid people who may not know how to talk to you?

If we can create a Dementia Friendly Community across Fife then people living with a diagnosis of dementia in their lives will be able to do what they have always done. That means going to the same shops, banks, building societies, cafés, pubs, libraries, museums, galleries, sports clubs, churches and anywhere else that is “normal” in their lives.

Over the last 2 years Fife Council has worked with Alzheimer Scotland on a Project to endeavour to support Glenrothes and the surrounding area to become Dementia Friendly. This has involved approaching local businesses and services to take them through a process which involves assessing physical spaces for their signage and way finding and offering dementia friends training.  The range of organisations which received the award include GP practices, Libraries, The Kingdom Shopping Centre, Community Centres, a hairdressers, a hotel, a church, banks, a Building Society and cafes.  The Project was very successful and Fife Council wanted to extend it across the whole of the Kingdom. I have been employed to take this forward.

The Dementia Friendly Fife Project will work in exactly the same way and will be an extension of the work in Glenrothes. I will be continuing to assess physical spaces to give advice on how to create dementia friendly signage. The other major component of the Project is to make sure everyone has a better understanding of dementia and how it can affect people at all stages of the illness. This is achieved by becoming a dementia friend. This training is open to everyone and can be taken on line through a 15 minute course or at an hour long face to face session.

With one in three of us likely to get dementia it is really important for us all to know where to get information and support and how to look after ourselves and any family, friends or work colleagues who may get diagnosed. Knowledge and understanding about how to live well with dementia is the key to all of us being able to stay at home and continue to be part of the communities we know and love and where we are known and loved.

Dementia Friendly Communities are driven by people living with the illness and they identify priority areas for development and approaches. It is essential that we ask them what matters to them about living with dementia in their communities and I will be setting up events to ensure this happens.  Consultation like this was part of the Glenrothes Project and people in that area told us they struggled to access information through the internet, they wanted to stay at work following their diagnosis, they had challenges with public transport and needed practical information like how to manage a Power of Attorney. From what we heard we created a paper leaflet which contains information about support agencies. We’re working with Stagecoach to ensure all their drivers become dementia friends. We also now ask organisations who get involved to seriously consider the support they would give to members of staff and volunteers who may develop dementia.

Some of these issues may be the same in other parts of the Kingdom but it is essential that we ask as there may be local variations.

So how can you get involved?

The very easy ask is that you take 15 minutes out of your life to become a dementia friend. If we all do that then we are well on the way to Fife becoming the first dementia friendly region in Scotland. At the start of the Project in November last year Fife had 2069 Dementia Friends. I hope to increase that number significantly over the lifespan of the Project which is two years.

Another way you could support the Project is by introducing me to any organisations who you think might be interested in getting involved. A warm contact from a known person is more likely to realise engagement than a cold call by a complete stranger.

All of us working together is the key to achieving a world where having a diagnosis of dementia is as commonplace as any other illness. A world where we can live our lives in the way that we want for as long as we can knowing that we’ll be supported and cared for in our communities and our families.   

Thank you for listening. I’ll look forward in hope that I have inspired you to get involved.  

 

  

 

Visit to Edinburgh Synagogue

Members of the Fife Interfaith Group were very excited to visit the magnificent Synagogue in Edinburgh on the 17 July 2018. The visit was hosted by Rabbi David Rose who first took the party to the small Synagogue which had been recently renovated and was full of light and colour. He explained the seating which was split in two so that the men and women pray separately as, being an Orthodox Synagogue, men and women do not pray together at all. However the women do take part in the services and can be the presenter at times.

The centrepiece of the Synagogue was the Ark where the Torah scrolls are stored and these were removed and shown to everyone. All Torahs are handwritten on parchment and can take up to one year to be written. From the distance the wording looked like printing but in fact this is how the skilful scribes write it, in straight lines and even letters. The Rabbi read from the Torah in Hebrew the 5th commandment, “Honour they Father and Mother –“ which was done in a set melody used for all readings. Many questions were asked and answered by the Rabbi in good humour and asked about the Torah which consists of the Five Books of Moses he added that there were smaller scrolls or books relating principally to Esther, Ruth and Song of Solomon. Extracts from these are also read on special occasions and 24 Hour Fasts were held on important festivals such as Yom Kippur to commemorate sad episodes in the Jewish History. There was a programme planned for the year which means that the complete Torah is read and heard each year.

The party then moved on to the rest of the building, first were spacious community rooms and then a large and well fitted kitchen where the Rabbi explained that in a Jewish kitchen milk and meat are always kept completely separately according to the “Laws of Kosher”. We then entered the large mosque. This was truly stunning. A high roofed large room with a windowed dome in the ceiling. At one end was an ornately decorated Ark housing the large Torahs which the Rabbi displayed to us by opening the Ark door. It was surrounded by a large platform and thus elevated above everyone in the Synagogue. A little way back from this was a dais which was where the services were conducted from and the seating arrayed on tiered levels with again the women’s seating to the side, also tiered. All the seats had names on them and when asked, the Rabbi explained that these no longer had any significance, although they had been important in the past. This building had been built in 1932 and replaced smaller Synagogues in Edinburgh including one which dated back to the early 19th Century, the first Synagogue in Scotland. Evidently this large Synagogue is only used in the summer and special occasions as it is so large that it gets very cold in the winter, hence the smaller Synagogue.

The Rabbi was thanked for his kindness and the tour which had been so interesting and the members then went home to ponder all the things that they had seen in a truly special place.

Talk on Adult Protection

Talk on “Adult Protection”

By Shona McEwan – Fife Council

 

The work of “Adult Protection” is to keep people safe and keep them from harm.  To do this it is necessary for people to either report in person or for a neighbour or friend who has worries about a neighbour or friend.  Many people are afraid to do this as they don’t feel they should interfere.  Preference is for reporting to be face to face but telephone calls to a duty social worker are quite acceptable.  There is a phone line for this purpose 01383 – 602200.

 

Last year there were 2,340 cases reported in Fife and the need for adult protection is highlighted by TV adverts and also in plays, soaps and programmes on TV and film.  Of the cases reported one fifth go right through to investigation although others may give cause for concern.  The people who report incidents are always worried whether action has been taken as the person reporting is not always told what has happened but if they wish they can ring and ask what happened and they would be told.  One of the audience said that they had reported a case and it seemed that no action had been taken but when they rang to check they were told that everything was being looked into.

 

Most at risk are the elderly, people with dementia and those with physical or learning difficulties.  The abuse can happen in their own houses or in Care Homes where abuse has fallen and new caring procedures introduced to help the carer and the patient.  Abuse can be physical, sexual, mental or monetary.  The Elderly are particularly vulnerable to monetary abuse.  Telephone scams can be a real problem and people can be advised to get call blockers but many are reluctant to do so as it will cut down the number of calls they receive. The other danger is internet abuse and bogus callers who are looking for the right sort of person they think they can take advantage of.  If anyone feels worried about any phone call or on the internet they should contact the Action Fraud Website.

 

There is a Recovery Project to help people who have been scammed or abused in anyway. This is used to get them back their self confidence and self respect and volunteers are needed to help this happen.  If anyone wants to help people should raise awareness of the problem, making sure that anyone who is concerned has the right information.  If all the information is there it is easier to start the process.  This is everyone’s responsibility as it is everyone’s right to report and ask for help for themselves or someone they know.

 

Brochures stressing the work of “Adult Protection” and advising the public how you can help were handed out.   A member told of a new Website “Just Serve” which organisations can us to find volunteers or helpers for their project.

Talk by Simon Wiegand Intern with Interfaith Scotland

Simon started by thanking us for inviting him back again and he said FIG together with Ayrshire Interfaith were the most visited Interfaith Groups in Scotland for him as he had visited each three times. His internship meant that he had done a lot of travelling and after his forthcoming visits to Sky and Shetland he will have visited every Interfaith Group in Scotland apart from Berwick and East Renfrew. However he had not visited any of the women only Groups in Scotland. He found each Interfaith Group was different, many were set up by local councils and some were still very connected to the councils others very independent. Groups met for Community Events, Scottish Interfaith Week, Dialogue Meetings and many a mixture of all three. All Groups hoped to have more diversity of Faiths and young people. He intends to write an article regarding the different Interfaith Groups in Scotland which should be circulated by Interfaith Scotland.

Young people were an important aspect of his work and he had been instrumental in organising the Youth Conference at St Andrews on the 21 April 2018 which had a nationwide attendance of 80 youth. He also worked with the Advisory Group for Interfaith Network for UK for Youth, this entailed meetings in London. This group was updating the Connect Guide for Youth, revising “How to start an Interfaith Group. They will be preparing a paper for young people which Interfaith Scotland will be circulating later in the year. He took part in many workshops and discussions with volunteers from the Faith communities. He often represented Interfaith Scotland at meetings with religious leaders and charities that Interfaith Scotland was working with. He found that these all generated excellent dialogue.

He was involved with organising the launch of Scottish Interfaith Week in Dundee this year. He was interested to attend the Holocaust Commemorations in Scotland especially because of his German background and to see it all from a different angle to the events in Germany. He worked a lot with Interfaith Glasgow where he worked with refugees and had dialogue and face to face discussions. He had taken part in Scripture evenings about the Holy Scriptures of the Christian Faiths. He also took part in Interfaith World Harmony week in Glasgow in January and was proud that Glasgow Interfaith Group came third in the world! Question- What will you implement in Germany? Because Germany is a Federal republic there is no national Interfaith organisation and the interest in Interfaith varies from state to state. Most Interfaith initiatives are in the big cities where groups are linking up in bilateral and multilateral ways. When he is ordained he will be a priest in a small village near Frankfurt/Darmstadt and he hopes eventually to set up an Interfaith Group. A lot would depend on the diversity in the village and how interested the local people are. He said that he seen the value of meals together and working in a creative way. Interfaith Groups need diversity of Dialogue. Question – Which Church will you be ordained a priest in? His answer was in the main protestant church in Germany. At the reformation there were two types of protestant churches, Lutheran and Presbyterian. Over time these had formed mergers and it is the united church he belongs to although other traditions still exist, Question – Which activity has had the best impact? He felt that meals were the best activity. They resulted in co-operation for preparation and cleaning up and obviously people relax when they eat and work together. Interfaith dialogues were excellent to but could be difficult in some areas in Glasgow although the Sikh and Shia Muslim communities were very involved.

Where did he attend church? He attended the Episcopalian Church and was invited, recently to preach the sermon. He was impressed by a video he saw of the baptism of an Ethiopian Eunuch and would recommend this. He said too that it was important for people to confront their questions and doubts about their Faith Simon started by thanking us for inviting him back again and he said FIG together with Ayrshire Interfaith were the most visited Interfaith Groups in Scotland for him as he had visited each three times. His internship meant that he had done a lot of travelling and after his forthcoming visits to Sky and Shetland he will have visited every Interfaith Group in Scotland apart from Berwick and East Renfrew. However he had not visited any of the women only Groups in Scotland. He found each Interfaith Group was different many were set up by local councils and some were still very connected to the councils others very independent. Groups met for Community Events, Scottish Interfaith Week, Dialogue Meetings and many a mixture of all three. All Groups hoped to have more diversity of Faiths and young people. He intends to write an article regarding the different Interfaith Groups in Scotland which should be circulated by Interfaith Scotland. Young people were an important aspect of his work and he had been instrumental in organising the Youth Conference at St Andrews on the 21 April 2018 which had a nationwide attendance of 80 youth. He also worked with the Advisory Group for Interfaith Network for UK for Youth, this entailed meetings in London. This group was updating the Connect Guide for Youth, revising “How to start an Interfaith Group. They will be preparing a paper for young people which Interfaith Scotland will be circulating later in the year. He took part in many workshops and discussions with volunteers from the Faith communities. He often represented Interfaith Scotland at meetings with religious leaders and charities that Interfaith Scotland was working with. He found that these all generated excellent dialogue. He was involved with organising the launch of Scottish Interfaith Week in Dundee this year. He was interested to attend the Holocaust Commemorations in Scotland especially because of his German background and to see it all from a different angle to the events in Germany. He worked a lot with Interfaith Glasgow where he worked with refugees and had dialogue and face to face discussions. He had taken part in Scripture evenings about the Holy Scriptures of the Christian Faiths. He also took part in Interfaith World Harmony week in Glasgow in January and was proud that Glasgow Interfaith Group came third in the world! Question- What will you implement in Germany? Because Germany is a Federal republic there is no national Interfaith organisation and the interest in Interfaith varies from state to state. Most Interfaith initiatives are in the big cities where groups are linking up in bilateral and multilateral ways. When he is ordained he will be a priest in a small village near Frankfurt/Darmstadt and he hopes eventually to set up an Interfaith Group. A lot would depend on the diversity in the village and how interested the local people are. He said that he seen the value of meals together and working in a creative way. Interfaith Groups need diversity of Dialogue. Question – Which Church will you be ordained a priest in? His answer was in the main protestant church in Germany. At the reformation there were two types of protestant churches, Lutheran and Presbyterian. Over time these had formed mergers and it is the united church he belongs to although other traditions still exist, Question – Which activity has had the best impact? He felt that meals were the best activity. They resulted in co-operation for preparation and cleaning up and obviously people relax when they eat and work together. Interfaith dialogues were excellent to but could be difficult in some areas in Glasgow although the Sikh and Shia Muslim communities were very involved.

Where did he attend church? He attended the Episcopalian Church and was invited, recently to preach the sermon. He was impressed by a video he saw of the baptism of an Ethiopian Eunuch and would recommend this. He said too that it was important for people to confront their questions and doubts about their Faith.

 

Talk on Buddhism by Kasia Grycuk

SGI Buddhism is based on the teachings of Nichiren Daishonin who lived in 13th Century Japan and was a fisherman’s son. He vowed at 11 that he would be the most important man in Japan when he grew up. He studied Buddha’s Sutras(Teachings) and he felt that the current followers of Buddhism did not understand the essence of the Buddha’s teachings as they had become formalised and ritualised. The Buddha had been born a prince and gone out into the world to receive enlightenment as a way to stop the suffering that he saw about him. Buddhism had spread from India to China and thence to Japan and it was the Chinese who translated Buddha’s Sutras from the Sanskrit into Chinese.

He was especially drawn to the “Lotus Sutra” which talks of the wonder of the Universe and is mystical and hard to understand. Kasia studies a book called the “Heart of the Lotus Sutra” which explains that the chant “Nam-myoho-renge-Kyo” was the phrase that can help you to be happy as you are and do not need another life. Kasia told of us of her own experiences with this chant and how it had helped her in her life. Of course his teachings called controversy and because of the letters he wrote to the Government encouraging them to treat people better and show respect for life, he was persecuted and eventually exiled. Kasia told of her study of his letters that he had written to his followers who were also, of course, being persecuted and the wisdom in these letters helped her to connect to Buddhism and Nichiren Daishonin himself.

SGI Buddhists are a lay organisation. There are no priests or Temples. When she chants Kasia uses beads which represent different worldly desires as well as helping to focus the thoughts. Silent prayers are also held for those who have died and for “Peace throughout the world for all human beings”. SGI Buddhists practice worldwide in 192 countries. She herself studied at a Buddhist University in Southern California and she spoke of a “Youth Generation Hope” Festival held last year in Manchester, London and Bristol. This was a festival of culture dance and music to show positivity and hope in the world. Answering questions after her talk she told how her mother had been a Buddhist and had taught English in Japan. When she married she became a Roman Catholic but after problems in her life she again became a Buddhist to sort these out. Her mother encouraged her to chant when she had problems at school and she found this so uplifting that she, too, became a Buddhist. Despite being a Buddhist in a Roman Catholic School she experienced no problems and eventually became Head Girl in her final year.

Another question was answered that there is no Deity in Buddhism and the chants are the means for you to grow and accept life. When asked what happens when we die she was not too sure but she knew that we would be reincarnated and that there is a circle of life and death, each person is an energy which cannot be destroyed. The Universe has no beginning and no end. To be a member it was necessary to make a commitment and this was commemorated by receiving a scroll and she showed a small copy which was carried with her. She stated that the chant helps her to chastise anger and bad emotions and leads her to respectful dialogue. Kasia has asked to add that if anyone is interested in the SGI Meetings please e-mail her on kasia_grycuk13@yahoo.co.uk

Talk on Judaism

Professor Joseph Goldblatt, Education Ambassador for the Scottish Council of Jewish Communiuties, or “Joe”, as he likes to be known, delivered an informative and interesting talk to Fife Interfaith Group about Judaism and how they celebrate their Faith in customs and rituals which of course are centuries old. He started by producing one of “Joes’ Boxes”. They are not named after him even though it was his idea to send one to all the councils in Scotland to let them know about Judaism. Joe, is an Acronym, Jewish Objects for Education in Scotland. He opened the boxes and then explained the use of the items enclosed which are used in the Synagogue and celebrations of the Sabbath and festivals such as Hannukah and Passover and how these all relate to past incidents in the history of Judaism. His enthusiasm for his Faith was catching and his humour lightened the whole talk. He has a special affection for Scotland, the only country in the world never to have expelled the Jews.

Our Story Goes On

Fife Interfaith Group were pleased to welcome a group from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who presented the show “Our Story Goes on” in the beautiful environment of the Old Kirk in Kirkcaldy on the 19 November 2017. We were please to welcome Councillor Lesley Backhouse from Fife Council as our guest. The show depicted family life, starting with the birth of two children, a boy and girl, their growing up and then their eventual meeting and getting married, then having their own family and of course coping with the loss of their parents. It was a fast moving show moving from scene to scene seamlessly and using some original songs but also well known show songs to further and underline the action. The singing from the principals was outstanding and the chorus backing was beautifully sustained. As well as the excellent leads everyone had their own moment and part to play as happens in life. There were many outstanding moments in the show, from missing a wayward son (“Bring him home” from “Les Miserables”) to the long married parents talking about their life together (“Do you love me?” from “Fiddler on the Roof”). The marriage scene with “Is this the little girl I carried?” also from “Fiddler on the Roof” which utilised all the cast was an absolute showstopper.

An entertaining and uplifting evening about life and defying anyone not too shed a tear at least once!

6th Annual Interfaith Lecture

FIG 6th Annual Interfaith Lecture- Imam Mohammed Hammad For 2017 we were very grateful to receive the Lecture from Imam Mohammed Hammad entitled “Living the Golden Rule”. During his talk Imam Hannam quoted from many Faiths the Golden Rule of “Do unto others as you would have them do to you”. He had constructed a really informative Power Point presentation which acknowledged the diversity of Scotland and stated many cases where Faiths have combined for the common good and worked with each other. He stressed the importance of respect for another Faith and working together to promote understanding among the Faiths and to acknowledge and embrace our differences. The text of the Imam's talk is shown below as Item 10.. We were very pleased to acknowledge the presence of Peter Grant MP for Glenrothes accompanied by his wife Fiona who serves as a Councillor on Fife Council. Unfortunately due to illness the representation from the Fife Interfaith Group was less than than it could have been but many members of the Mosque attended and Imam Hammad had invited the Imam from the Dunfermline Mosque, so we could be introduced to each other. The Mosque laid on a lavish spread for refreshments after the talk and this gave a chance for the visitors to the Mosque to interact with the members of the Mosque and build greater understanding between one another

Fife Interfaith Group 6th Annual Interfaith Lecture

Lecture given by Imam Mohammed Hammad of the Central Mosque Kirkcaldy - As citizens, irrespective of what background one may originate from, we are received with acceptance and tolerance. As a result, Great Britain as a whole has become fruitful in developing into a “global village” where despite being a small country, it is so diverse in terms of the many different races and religions involved in forming this multicultural society. ONS – London, Leicester, Birmingham, Manchester diversity

However interfaith dialogue and initiatives also play a major role, seeking oneness, unity, and harmony. Religion for many embraces all beliefs and races in brotherhood, exalting love, respect, tolerance, forgiveness, mercy, human rights, peace, and brother/sisterhood The Church encourages living together, believing and living as Christians, getting to know and support with compassion, dialogue and co-operation. Likewise other religions too, encourage their followers to develop their spiritual, moral and socio-cultural values. Social Pluralism Pluralism refers to: “The existence of different groups, religions and races living together in a society, but continue to have their different traditions and interests” The meaning itself leads to the belief that it is in fact possible to coexist with others, and it is good for different groups and religions to live together in one society Thus, religious social pluralism means the acceptance of a variety of religious beliefs or opinions in a multi-faith society The European Court of Human Rights has also emphasised and strongly recommended pluralism, broad mindedness and tolerance being significant features of any society So, why have we assembled tonight? Some may not know what interfaith initiatives actually are, and what they hope to achieve. Interfaith initiatives refer to people of different religions, culture, colour and people coming together in order to generate a much needed understanding amongst different religions. Engaging in dialogue between people of different religions, defining common grounds, promoting tolerance, displaying mutual respect, without stamping any authority over one another all work as components to achieve the goal of peaceful coexistence. Interfaith dialogues and initiatives work together to remove obstacles with one another, and even stop or prevent conflicts. How do we secure our future together as one local and global community? Respect and Tolerance Respect is something every human being enjoys, regardless of race, religion, language and culture. Irrespective to where we belong, and what baggage we bring with us, respect forms a powerful bond between all. Whereas mutual understanding / tolerance, itself is described as: “A fair and permissive attitude towards opinions that differ from one’s own.” Therefore our future does not lie in isolation to each other, but lies in living together. It is the differences amongst us that we acknowledge and recognise each other, not differences that divide us. There may be a wide range of diversity amongst all religions but in essence it is the same golden thread of truth which connects each other.

The Buddhist tradition describes religions as different twigs, branches, leaves and flowers of the same tree, all stemming from the same root. Together teaching us to be sincere, gentle, loving, and compassionate. Leaves, twigs, and branches are all different in size, shape and colour. Only when we look beyond the apparent physical image, we realise all the different shapes grow from the same natural, original root of peace. “We made you people and tribes in order you may recognise one another” Living and working together is not always easy. Religion harnesses deep emotions which can sometimes take destructive forms such as arguments, doctrinal differences, personal issues, religiously-motivated violence and extremism within communities. Where this happens, we must draw on our faith to bring about reconciliation and understanding, for the sweetest fruits of religion are healing and positive. We have a great deal to learn from one another which can enrich us without undermining our own identities. Together, listening and responding with openness and respect, we can move forward to work in ways that acknowledge genuine differences but most importantly build on shared hopes and values. Coexistence in the contemporary era has changed considerably through globalisation, mass communication and increase of immigration which has brought uncountable numbers of people of different faiths and cultures into daily contact. Today, diverse religions work together to address many common concerns, particularly the need to restore the ethical and moral codes provided by religion as the foundation for developing universal principles. Building a more just society by condemning greed, economic injustice, materialism and violence at the expense of the public good.

More importantly, freedom of religion is seen to be one of many opening doors to protecting the rights of religious minorities and approaching issues from the perspective of partnership, rather than of competition. This is summed up beautifully by many diverse religions: When Christians say: “Do to others what you would have them do to you” When Jews say “love your neighbour as yourself” When Muslims say: “No one of you is a believer until he desires for his brother that which he desires for himself” When Buddhists say “Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful” When Sikhs say “Treat others as you would be treated yourself” When Hindus say: “The sum of duty is do not unto others which would cause pain if done to you” It all displays the light which we have within us towards one another, this is the sacred ideal which each and every single one of us attempt to advocate – the sense that we are brothers and sisters to one another irrespective of colour, creed, race and religion. It wasn’t long ago that we used to say: “If only we could communicate more easily” “If only we could communicate across borders quicker” “If only we could speak with each other and find that we have so much in common” However today, almost all of these communication barriers are being removed. We can now communicate with each other across frontiers almost instantaneously through the internet. There are millions of people who may not inhabit the same street, but now inhabit the same internet site / platform. It is in the encounter of listening and being listened to that we discover that the beliefs we have in common are so much greater than what has driven us apart in the past. Now we have a unique opportunity to work more closely together in this new global age, in what is an interdependent world. It brings joy when we hear about what people of different faiths do for each other for the common good of serving humanity: - Muslims in Britain collaborating with Methodist churches to respond to the needs of disaster victims - Jews helping Christians rebuild their churches - 2016 Amazon Prime commercial It brings joy when: Christians speak of Love The Quran begins it’s chapters with the same attribute of Love and mercy Buddhists demonstrate Love and compassion All other religions and teachings to be kind and avoid evil Since all religions teach us to embrace kindness and avoid evil, it seems that the principles and methods of practice can co-exist without conflicts - which is why we are here today. Coexistence is derived from the word existence, which means to live together. Differences are part of the law of nature on which the universe was built Harmony is a commitment, and judgements within religions aim to spread harmony among people. God has created the Earth so that we may develop it through the exchange of peace, interests and thoughts. We may be different, but we can all still coexist.

Aristotle: “The reason for revolutions and spread of hatred is due to the break down of “philia” When philia breaks down in a society, people begin to lose compassion for the each other. Thank you for listening!

Bicentennial of the Birth of Baha'u'llah

Bahá’u’lláh, was born in Tehran on November 12, 1817, and was named Mírzá Husayn-‘Alí. His father, Mírzá Buzurg, held a high-ranking position in the court of the Persian king. At a young age, Bahá’u’lláh exhibited qualities that made those around Him realize He was no ordinary child. He possessed an innate wisdom and intelligence, even though He did not attend school, and as He grew, the signs of His greatness became increasingly clear. Bahá’u’lláh became known for His keen insight, His excellent character, His generosity and compassion.

The name Bahá’u’lláh means “the Glory of God” or “Glory of the Lord” This title is mentioned in many prophecies in the Holy Books. Because of his mission he was exiled from country to country and imprisoned for much of the rest of his life. But all this only served to spread His teachings to a wider audience, the message of unity, peace and justice for all people and all nations. He was exiled (1853) from Iran to Iraq, Constantinople Turkey and then to prison city of Acre which was then part of the Ottoman Empire now Israel. He arrived there as a prisoner in 1868 and passed away in 1892. His shrine is today the focal point of the Baha’i World Community. https://www.bahaullah.org. 

Throughout our history God sent humanity educator known as Manifestations of God. Their teachings they provide enabled mankind to advance spiritually and embrace sciences and arts. Baha’u’llah the latest of explained the religious of worlds all come from the same source and in essence they are the chapter of one religion from God Throughout history, God has sent to humanity, according to the needs of the time, a series of Divine Educators, known as Manifestations of God. These Divine Educators include Abraham, Krishna, Moses, Buddha, Zoroaster, Jesus, Muhammad, the Báb and Bahá’u’lláh. Their distinct social and spiritual teachings have guided humanity’s efforts to advance civilisation. Bahá’u’lláh, the most recent of these Divine Educators, teaches that humanity is on a path to maturity, much like an individual who progresses through various stages of development. The current turmoil in the world can be viewed as humanity experiencing the turbulence of adolescence. The writings of Bahá'u'lláh provide a wealth of spiritual teachings that assist us in progressing on this path towards maturity, and in building a peaceful and unified world. Baha’is are very eager to share the news about Baha’u’llah, because his personage and his mission are so unique in the annals of human history. Baha’is regards Baha’u’llah as the most recent messenger from God and His message is specifically designed for this time in human history. Most people in this country are Christian background and one of the things so predominate in the story of Jesus is told us: I have many things to tell you but you cannot bear it now but when the spirit of Truth comes he will lead you all the truth. So Jesus could have told us everything that Baha’u’llah has told us but people were not ready for it. There was no transportation or communication, but now we have this beautiful picture of earth from the space beautiful globe and we can see we are one global village, one beautiful united world and we need to foster this unity and break down the barrier that been kept us apart and that was Bahá’u’lláh’s mission. It is unique in the annals of religious history. He brings us 3 oneness’s oneness of God and oneness of Religion and oneness of mankind. He tell us all the prophets like Muhammed, Jesus, Moses brought beautiful message geared to the needs of the people of that time and they talked about the one before and one coming after, so they always said and the great teacher that brings all the colour of the world together and indigenous prophesy will come and all the and Baha’is feel he is Baha’u’llah and if we look at that prospective God creating a great school and always send us great spiritual school and he keeps sending a new message and as people advance for the needs of the people knowledge So you do not leave behind, he was not wrong and his teaching was exactly what people needed at that time and he talked about somebody coming the spirit of Truth. You can bring the love of Jesus to Baha’i faith and learn to love others. Love him even more. Specific principal to achieve this oneness • Universal language, to keep mother’ tongues and auxiliary language • There is spiritual solution to the economics problems if we put people first rather than profit. • Equality of Genders (Men & Women) are like the wings of a bird and you need to have the wings balanced. They are equal but have different stations and work to do. • Harmony of science and religion. Bahá’u’lláh’s Teachings on religion make a clear distinction between true religion and superstition. Religion should guide science ethically, and put to good uses rather than bad. • Religion must be the cause of fellowship and love. If it becomes the cause of discord and hatred, then it is better to be without it. • Universal education • Humanity, created to carry forward an ever-advancing civilization, must be freed from the captivity of the world of materialism, because true civilization needs a balance of the spiritual and the material; this balance is a prerequisite of human happiness. • A World Government: to enact the laws required to satisfy the needs of all peoples. It will have at its disposal the combined forces of the world in order to maintain peace. • A World Parliament: The members of this should be elected by the people in each country, and their election should be confirmed by their respective governments. • A World Code of Law: based on justice for individuals and for nations. • A World Tribunal: Its decision will be binding on all parties. • The progressive revelation of religious truth • The development of spiritual qualities • Integration of worship and service • Justice of all mankind  'A Model for the Future' The Bahá'í administrative structure already exists at a local, national and international level and can be taken as a model for future society. People are elected to the Bahá'í bodies solely on merit, without any nominations or canvassing. In the Bahá'í system, power is devolved to the lowest possible level, and is given to groups, not to individuals. Consultation at all levels is a key part of Bahá'í administration. The main local community meeting consists of prayer, consultation and social interaction, designed to foster a spirit of unity and co-operation. Unity in Diversity World Citizenship does not imply a single world culture, although it should lead to a world civilisation. Cultural diversity and national autonomy are important principles which must not and need not be sacrificed. To be a citizen of the world does not require giving up a sane sense of patriotism. On the contrary, it is only right to be proud of one's country, but the good of one's country will, in reality, only be achieved through a wider loyalty to the entire human race.  Letters to Kings, rulers Between 1867 and 1870, Bahá'u'lláh, the founder of the Bahá'í Faith, wrote letters to all the kings and rulers of the earth, announcing His mission and putting forward principles for the evolution of peace in the world. Baha’u’llah wrote as a Prisoner of Ottoman Empire 1867 addressing • Pius IX (“Pio No, no”) Supreme Pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church, King of Rome • Napoleon III Bonaparte Emperor of France • Alexander II Czar of all the Russias • Victoria Queen of Great Britain, Empress of India • Nasiri’d-Din Shah of Persia • Abdu’l Aziz Sultan of the Ottoman Empire He Spoke of the Dawn of a NEW AGE. But first there will be catastrophic upheavals in the world political and social order to pave the way, he urged the world leaders to persuade justice, end slavery and oppression, lay down their weapons and come together to establish a long lasting peace. Most ignored His message. The king of Iran was so angry and insulted that he ordered the messenger to be killed a 17 years old boy who travelled a long way in dangerous circumstances to deliver this message.

As Bahá’u’lláh professes all the reigns came to an ugly end all except the Queen Victoria. She was more positive toward the letter. She was praised for abolishing slavery trade and for taking British voting system more fair and representative. Secondly for allowing democratic government to flourish. Queen Victoria took a keen interest in the political affairs of the time and took seriously her role as head of the world’s largest empire. Bahá'u'lláh went on to point out that the government should not just act in the narrow interests of this country but should act for the good of the world as a whole: “ It behoveth them, however, to be trustworthy among His servants, and to regard themselves as the representatives of all that dwell on earth." As Bahá’u’lláh professes all the reigns came to an ugly end all except the Queen Victoria. She was more positive toward the letter. She was praised for abolishing slavery trade and for taking British voting system more fair and representative. When Queen Victoria received her letter she remarked "If this is of God, it will endure; if not, it can do no harm". It is interesting to note that all the other rulers who received a letter from Bahá'u'lláh subsequently lost power and their dynasties ended. In 1926 one of her granddaughter Queen Marie of Romania accepted to became a Baha’i. The first member of a royal family to become a Baha’i. 'Ye are the fruits of one tree, and the leaves of one branch. Deal ye one with another with the utmost love and harmony, with friendliness and fellowship'. He Who is the Daystar of Truth beareth Me witness! So powerful is the light of unity that it can illuminate the whole earth.” (Epistle to the Son of the Wolf) “The earth is but one country, and mankind its citizens.” (Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh, Lawḥ-i-Maqsúd Baha’is love to share this with people, you don’t need to become a Baha’i this is not membership seeking. We like to share his message who will help the world never this has occurred You can go to Baha’i website and take what they want with no string attach, there are writings, prayers and hope for future peace is not only possible but is inevitable it gives hope in this time of the world. https://bicentenary.bahai.org/ http://www.bahai.org.uk/ http://www.bahai.org/ http://media.bahai.org/ http://bahaiteachings.org/bahaullah-addresses-queen-victoria 

Visit to Kirkcaldy Coptic Church Sept 2018

As part of Diversity Week Fife, the Fife Interfaith Group arranged a visit to the Kirkcaldy Coptic Church which was the first Coptic Church in Scotland, another in Hamilton was opened five years ago.

 

It is situated in an old chapel which has been converted into a really stunning Coptic Church with a big wooden screen imported from Egypt and put together without any nails.  The walls of the Church are hung with Icons and Tapestries of Saints and extracts from the Bible.  There is a Font for baptism in one corner again this corner is decorated with pictures of John the Baptist and Christ’s own baptism.

 

The Deacon welcomed us and we were handed over to the Minister, Father Ghattas, who was dressed in the simple robes of a Coptic priest.  An enveloping black robe and a cross hanging made of leather but beautifully made evidently. Coptic priests do not go in for Gold.

 

We were then told the history of the Coptic Church which was founded in the mid First Century by St Mark and evidently all first churches dedicated in a country are dedicated to St Mark as this chapel had been. The Church is an Orthodox Church and had co-operated with the Church of Rome until the 6th Century when their leader, the Pope, was excommunicated for political reasons and they were cut adrift from the Roman Catholic Church.  Up till the 7th Century the Church was widely spread in the Eastern Mediterranean but with the rise of Islam the Church lost many members to the new Religion.  This meant that they then spent the next 1500 years under Muslim domination.  Their position in Egypt is still tenuous at times whereas the man in the street is happy with the Church, hardline fanatics are causing problems and there was the infamous incident of Isis executing 27 Coptic Christians on the TV.  Evidently they were tortured to give up their Faith but refused and instead prayed for strength and their steadfastness so frightened the rebels that they decided to execute them.  Many Coptic Christians have suffered Martyrdom over the centuries.

 

The Coptic Church was present at the Council of Nicaea when the rules of the Church were drawn up by the Emperor of Rome when it became the religion of the Roman Emperor.  One in particular was St Athanasius whose creed is still used in churches today.  Legend tells of an Egyptian princess who fled Egypt and came to Scotland, settling in Loch Leven on St Rules Island, from there the group went to Glasgow and then to Ireland where they were known as the Scotii from the Princess’s name.  These then became the Scots who of course invaded Scotland in the 5th Century and by setting up their Kingdom gave Scotland its name.

 

It was the Coptic Church that first introduced the Monastic System to the world.  In the 3rd Cenury Members ventured into the desert and founded monasteries, leading an austere life dedicated to God. Many of these monasteries still survive today.

 

Icons are very important in the Coptic Church and are all painted in an individual style.  We were shown the “Holy of Holies” which only the Deacon and Priest could enter.  It stored the Sacrament cups and plates which were beautifully and simply made as well as containing an altar.  Questions were asked about the Coptic Church which disapproves of Alcohol but in fact leaves everyone to work out their own Salvation by study, prayer and attending services. No-one should be forced.

 

All those present felt the special spirit of the Church and the Deacon and Minister were thanked for their kindness and hospitality with refreshments served afterwards

Diversity Morning Glenrothes High

A Diversity Morning was organised for the First to Third year Pupils in Glenrothes High School on 11 March 2017 as a joint project between the School and Fife Centre for Equalities. A series of Workshops had been prepared plus a number of stalls in the Assembly Hall for the pupils to learn about the various aspects of Diversity from Racial and Religious to Gender and Disability. Naturally Fife Interfaith Group was asked to make presentation regarding religious diversity and the common ground that exists between them. The Event started with an interesting presentation showing the four types of £20 notes in use in Scotland. Despite the differences in appearances each note was worth £20 and the point was that the same goes for all the people in the world, they may look, act and behave differently but they are all worth the same, just like the £20 notes. There was a rota of youths who attended one of the Workshops, then rotated at the stalls in the Assembly Hall and finished with another workshop. The Fife Interfaith Presentation took about 8 minutes and about every ten minutes or so, the pupils would move onto another display and so it was quite a hectic schedule to keep up with. Many pupils were interested in the presentation but naturally there was a mixed reception from others but hopefully the message that all Religions have a basic belief in tolerance and many interpretations of the same themes was understood by most of those attending the presentation. Thanks to Glenrothes High School for organising such an interesting and informative Morning for the pupils and to Fife Centre for Equalities and all the other groups who took the time to attend and put their message across.

Interfaith Talk Dunfermline 2015

Rev David Chillingworth Bishop of St Andrews,Dunkeld and Dunblane Interfaith Week I’m delighted to have the opportunity of speaking in Scottish Interfaith Week. ‘A Challenge for a time like this’ reminds us that it is hard to imagine a time at which the question of how people of different faiths and cultures might live together harmoniously and in mutual respect has been more important and more urgent. Scottish Interfaith Week draws attention to and celebrates the diversity of Scotland today – and it draws attention to the way in which faith and expressions of faith are one of the most visible ways in which we see that diversity in our society. Our friendship and our desire to know about and to learn from one another are important building blocks for a harmonious and diverse society. I thought I should share with you just a flavour of how I experience those inter-faith relationships.

For the Scottish Episcopal Church, interfaith relationships have long been a priority – in the establishment of the charmingly named CROPOF which stands for Committee for Relationship with People of Other Faiths. We’ve renamed one or two of our committees lately – the somewhat colonialist Overseas Committee has become the Global Partnerships Committee. And maybe CROPOF could do with a name which seems rather less to assume that we measure everything against the centrality of Christian faith. Earlier this year, I took part in a meeting of Faith Leaders around the cabinet table of the Scottish Government in Bute House, which is the official residence of the First Minister. This invitation from the First Minister was a remarkable statement of the priority which she gives to this area of work. She chaired the meeting. She knew all the participants by name. We talked at length about the involvement of our diverse faith communities in Scottish society. In the SEC we take a small amount of pride in the development of is now called the ‘Just’ Festival – formerly the Festival of Spirituality and Peace. It has had an important role in highlighting interfaith relationships and in introducing to a wider audience the richness of our faith traditions. But there is one event which I look back on as having been particularly thought-provoking for me. I was one of a group of faith leaders who visited STV and as part of that visit were linked in a dialogue with schools across Scotland. The questions were not about churches as institutions. What the young people wanted to know about was spirituality and prayer, about the reality of a life of faith. Those questions were for me the expression of what we sometimes call the Post-Modern Society – a society which has no interest in religious institutions or authority but wants to know about faith and spiritual experience. It was our partner faith leaders who spoke with the greatest conviction and authority in response to these questions. I was humbled by that. I want this evening to mention and explore two issues which make this Interfaith Week particularly significant The Video The first is the controversy surrounding the Church of England’s Video and the refusal of the cinema chains to screen it even though it had been passed by the appropriate boards. The cinemas said that their policy was not to accept political or religious advertising. They are perfectly entitled to that policy – although it begs the question whether all the rest of their advertising is somehow neutral. I am particularly aware at present for example of the extent to which advertising invites us to enter into unrestrained materialism – and I’m thinking particularly of the Christmas advertising directed at small children. The mistake which the cinemas made, in my view, was to suggest that this advertisement ‘might be offensive’ Some of you may have seen the advertisement. It is a 60 second hearing of the Lord’s Prayer. People in various situations and roles say a line of the prayer in a way which links it to their daily life and work. There is no comment – no selling of anything. It is not an attempt to package religion or to sell a religious brand. I think it was a genuine attempt to evoke faith in a society in which that faith response tends to go dormant under the pressure of our secular culture. But offensive? I think that the values of Scottish Interfaith Week include a recognition that we can all appreciate one another’s faith without necessarily needing to share it. It’s about recognising that we are all in the world of faith – all attempting to stir in people a deep faith response when much of the rest of our society wants us to believe that there is nothing more – nothing more than what we see and experience – nothing deeper which lies behind that – nothing which calls us to a deeper ‘soul engagement’ with our own lives and the life of the world. It also, as I shall suggest in a moment, calls us to explore what we mean when we talk about a diverse or a multicultural society. I don’t believe such a society can be one in which we are offended simply by hearing the views or the faith of others – unless of course what we hear is fundamentalist, exclusive, prejudicial or hostile.

Impact of Paris The recent events in Paris have been shocking beyond all imaging. But of course they come in a sequence of similar events which began in recent memory with 9/11 and 7/7 and with previous atrocities in Paris, Tunisia and recently in Beirut. Governments have a primary responsibility to protect their citizens. But of course there is a difficult line between doing what is necessary to protect citizens – increased police presence on the street, tighter border controls and many more – and attempts to satisfy a natural desire for punitive vengeance. President Hollande, for example, has said that France will be merciless in response to the attacks in Paris. Of course – and yet, writing in last week’s Guardian, Canon Giles Fraser drew attention to the risk that we may be drawn into mimetic violence. By that he meant a violence which simply mirrors the violence of the other so that we are drawn into an ever-deepening spiral of violence which doesn’t necessarily make us any safer. It is the nature of all conflict that it tends to become directly binary and adversarial, that any middle ground in which mature consideration might take place is simply squeezed out. Speaking in the Orwell Lecture at University College, London, last week, Archbishop Rowan Williams said that ‘somehow the obstinate attempt to make sense of those who are determined to make no sense of me is one of the things which divides civilisation from barbarism, faith from emptiness. You have to try.’ Archbishop Williams said that he was not advocating ‘sentimental illusions that all you had to do was to be nice to people’ – but that you had to make an attempt to ‘imagine the other’ And then he said that ‘the hardest thing we face at the moment is that: how do we imagine the unimaginable mentality of somebody who thinks that God or justice or the future .. is honoured by slaughter or barbarity.’ RELIGION AND SECTARIANISM – THE FATAL WEAKNESS

Let’s move a little closer specifically to what we explore together in Scottish Interfaith Week. Many of you will know that I am Irish – a member of the small southern Irish minority protestant community by my birth in Dublin and my family - and that I lived and worked most of my adult life in Northern Ireland. I was living in Belfast and aged 18 when the Troubles began. I was 54 when I moved to Scotland in 2005. I have a family story in ministry which goes back primarily to the ministry of my maternal grandfather, Ernest Bateman, who was ordained in 1911. That ministry in Southern Ireland, Northern Ireland – and to a limited degree in Scotland – has been profoundly shaped by questions of how faith and identity – identity both cultural and political – interact with one another. And when that relationship between faith and identity goes wrong, it becomes toxic very quickly and becomes what we know in both Ireland and Scotland as sectarianism. In the book ‘Moving beyond Sectarianism’ by Cecelia Clegg and Joe Leichty – Cecelia Clegg recently retired from teaching at New College here in Edinburgh – they describe sectarianism as ‘a system of attitudes, actions, beliefs and structures at personal, communal and institutional levels which always involves religion and typically involves a negative mixing of religion and politics’. The Moving Beyond Sectarianism project was established by the Irish School of Ecumenics. As I lived through the long years of the Troubles – particularly in the last 19 years when I was Rector of a parish in Portadown and greatly preoccupied with the parading issues around the Orange Order – that research gave me a grammar – a way of understanding how religion could be everywhere in the Northern Ireland Troubles while at the same time understanding that the conflict was not primarily a religious war. I learnt that religion can act as a ‘marker’ for division without being the primary root of that division in itself. I gradually came to believe that there is what I have sometimes called a fatal weakness in religion. That weakness is its apparent inability to prevent it being borrowed in the cause of political and cultural movements which are not in themselves religious.

Religion serves to tug the heartstrings and to give an ultimate authority to positions which in themselves are not of ultimate significance. And what is Islamic Jihadist terrorism but another example of the same thing. Muslims across the world say, ‘Not in my name’ and ‘Our faith is not about this kind of violence and division’. And yet they and we seem powerless to prevent that happening. In that context we hear again the words of Archbishop Rowan Williams referring to the ‘unimaginable mentality somebody who thinks that God or justice or the future .. is honoured by slaughter or barbarity.’ I think that Jesus also said and did things which showed that he could be hostile to what we regard as religion – rather than spirituality or faith. He drove the money changers and traders out of the temple saying ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer’. He was constantly in conflict with the Scribes and Pharisees and their religion of letter rather than spirit. He makes those of us who are professionals in religion squirm as he tells the story of the Good Samaritan where priest and Levite pass by on the other side and the Samaritan who is ‘other’ to the Jew is the one who renders aid. In a sense, that brings us back to my earlier memory of the dialogue between faith leaders and teenagers at STV. What they wanted was faith and spirituality. And some of us where challenged not to want to give them institutional religion. So let us move on finally to consider where all this leads and what kind of society Scottish Interfaith Week challenges us to build. Firstly I think that the events in Paris and other places make it inevitable that, if we are to be safer in a dangerous world, we are going to find ourselves living with more restrictions and intrusion in our lives than has been the case in recent years. I spent most of my life living with an extraordinarily high level of surveillance – never at all reassured by the suggestion that ‘the innocent have nothing to fear’. We lived in Northern Ireland with searches in shopping areas, with locked doors in shops and restaurants, with tight border controls. We had to identify our bags on the tarmac before we boarded the plane. But I would to be honest prefer that to another stirring of the cycles of mimetic violence which is undertaken with no particular end in view other than that of being merciless. The violence which we face is deeply embedded in poverty, in bad and unresolved history and in mistaken readings of religion. It is not susceptible to simplistic and violent approaches to wiping it out. Secondly we need a serious public debate about the kind of diverse society which we are building here in Scotland and in the rest of Britain.

People talk easily about multiculturalism. They sometimes take about it as an experiment which has failed. But I don’t think that we have talked about it thoughtfully and seriously. The questions are ‘How much engagement and integration do we need in order to have a society which we can in any sense say has unity?’ And ‘how much distinctiveness and separation do we need to enable religious and cultural traditions which can bring colour and diversity to us to flourish?’ Those are very difficult questions and the answers are going to be finely balanced. Those questions are experienced in the freedoms – freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and most of all freedom of worship – which we prize so much. They surface in a particularly challenging way around education policy and the question of faith schools. Then I think that it calls us to become much more intentional about how we develop our interfaith relationships here in Scotland and elsewhere. One of my oldest friends is the recently retired Bishop of Leicester, Tim Stevens. He and others such as Revd Andrew Wingate have worked over many years at interfaith work in Leicester. Their success has been seen in the failure of the BNP in spite of many attempts to gain a foothold there. We need to do the same. We need to get to know one another better on a personal level. We need to understand how one another’s communities work. We need to think about whether there are parts of one anothers traditions which we can share. Can we work together in the relief of poverty – as we already do in Food Banks. Can present austerity give us the opportunity of sharing in the wonderful Sikh tradition of feeding people in the Gurdwara. Can we explore together how together we might represent the idea of faith to a society which is very secular.

The Grand Opening! 27th May, 2012

Dr Junaid, Chair of FIG, welcomes guest David Ross, Depute Leader of Fife Council.

Flag Ceremony

The World Peace Prayer Society led a colourful parade of flags which made this a very special occasion.

Interfaith Week

 

Talk on Spiritualism by Irene MacGilvray

 

Irene started her talk by stating that she was a medium and as such could be called to anywhere in the UK but is presently in Kirkcaldy.  She explained that Spiritualism is governed by the Spiritualist’s National Union, which is a Charity and has 300 affiliated churches. They organize the training of Ministers and Mediums have a system of

examinations, a college  and regularly visit the affiliated churches. They have 7 Principles : 1. The Fatherhood of God 2. The Brotherhood of Man  3. The Communion of Saints and the Ministry of Angels   4.The Continuous Existence of the Human Soul  5. Personal responsibility  6. Compensation and Retribution Hereafter for all the Good and Evil deeds done on Earth   7.Eternal Progress open to Every Human Soul.

 

Ministers act as any Minister of Faith with responsibility for the Church where they are living. There is a Lyceum in each Church which is basically a Sunday School for all ages so that congregations can learn more about Spiritualism  and how Life is to learn and how we have to take responsibilities for the choices we make.  Sometimes it can take many years until we fully understand what our trials in life are for.  In her own life she had always dreamed of being a Mother and having children and eventually she did have two children but they are both now in the Spirit World and she was obviously very unhappy.  Eventually she came to terms with the Trauma and gradually all the negative feelings were replaced with positive feelings and she was able to thank God for the things that had happened to her and understand them.  LIGHT- NATURE- TRUTH.

 

Medium-ship gives positive proof that life is eternal and this life is not the be all and end all. Jesus was the great Healer and Medium many of his visions are described in the Bible as are his healings.  Medium-ship comes through the mind, not the brain.  The Spirit has to lower its vibrations and the Medium has to raise their vibration until they are in synch. It is the Spirit who decides who comes through.  Information must be given without using too much energy so the link can be maintained .  Medium-ship is about Perception and Clairvoyance is not just about the popular idea of Medium-ship but also can be by objects, hearing, taste as well.  There is also Spiritual Healing and this can be hands on or distant healing and is done with prayers and is inspired by the Spirit World . Healing can be done alone or in Groups but nothing can be guaranteed it is not just Faith.

 

A Spiritualist Service consists of a Peace Moment to start then a Prayer , Hymn, Healing moment, Reading, Hymn, Reading, Spirit World, a Hymn then a closing prayer, any member can conduct a service at the minister’s behest.  Spiritualism also has baptisms, weddings (Aloka), Funerals as do all Faiths.  There can be demonstrations organized to raise funds.  There is great lack of Spirituality in the world today and Spiritualism is often seen as a threat.  There are many fakes, Mediums who do say 2 weeks training and then call themselves a medium when in fact they need further instruction.  They are often guided by their Ego and the chance to make money. There are many fakes on TV and films can show Spiritualism in a bad light. Psychic nights in pubs which are primarily to make money for the pub and the medium attending, are also a bad form of Spiritualist practice, which all damage Spiritualism.  Like most churches Spiritualism has been hit by falling attendances. Just after the war St Vincent Church in Glasgow would have three services on a Sunday each full with 2,000 attendances but now this no longer happens. Mediums and ministers are all encouraged to dress smartly but not always with a tie which is preferred, for men of course! All are voluntary getting just expenses if they have to travel.  Otherwise no-one is told what to think.

 

Jesus was the best Teacher and Healer and chose his disciples for their psychic abilities. A good medium will listen carefully to the messages they receive and not give the answers that people want to hear.  There is the famous case of a medium from Edinburgh, Helen Duncan, who told a mother that her son was lost at sea in a ship.  This was during the war and the War Office was suppressing the news of the loss of the ship.  So when they heard about this incident because people were talking about it, the medium was arrested as a spy as they said she must have got the information from Germany. After 6 months, having been accused of witchcraft, she was eventually released!  She could have so easily told the mother that her son was safe and well which is what the mother wanted but the Medium gave the message she had received from the Spirit World.

Meeting with Annabelle Ewing MSP 29/1/19

Colm Wilson Chairman and Frank Bowness Secretary were delighted to meet with Annabelle Ewing MSP at the Fife Refugee Centre in Kirkcaldy on the 25 January 2019.  The meeting followed an invitation from the Fife Interfaith to Mrs Ewing to their 7th Annual Interfaith Lecture in November 2018.  Mrs Ewing was unable to come to the lecture but indicated that she would like to meet with members of the Fife Interfaith Group to find out the scope and range of their activities, This was arranged and an excellent meeting was held at which many aspects of Interfaith were discussed to assist Mrs Ewing in understanding the events that are held in Fife to spread the message of Interfaith.  Colm and Frank were touched that Mrs Ewing took time out from her busy schedule to meet them.

 

7th Annual Interfaith Lecture by Lesley Laird MP

Thank you for inviting me to give this year’s interfaith lecture. Faith by definition is an abstract concept but leads people to carry out concrete acts. Not solely religious in nature, and often in unexpected places   

Every day when we put on the radio, or tv, or check our social media we cannot fail to be struck by just how volatile the world is today.  We are undoubtedly living through some incredibly turbulent times in politics, in religion, and in terms of tolerance in our wider society.

The rise of the far right across Europe, South America as well as North America has made us all question not just how we fight their values of intolerance, but what values do we hold close to us that we use to define ourselves?

Some say religion and politics shouldn’t be mixed. Tony Blair’s former head of communications, Alastair Campbell, famously interrupted Tony Blair when he was about to talk about his faith and said, “We don’t do God”.

Personally, I would have to disagree.  My party, the Labour party is a party of values and principles which are very similar to the values and principles of many faiths and religions. We believe in outwardly facing internationalism. In peace. In tolerance. I believe that our principles of democratic socialism and an emphasis on working together to ensure that we can all prosper is key to how we fight intolerance and those that look to blame others.  

That is why I believe so many people were disappointed at the way we handled our relationship with the Jewish community in our handling of the IHRA guidelines on antisemitism.  And that disappointment was also profoundly felt within our own party by our elected representatives and our wide and growing membership. 

But, unfortunately with the rapid growth in our membership our own internal process did not keep up with the changing way we needed to deal with and act on concerns when members departed from those values that we have held so dear for generations. 

We now have to accept that hard work is now required to rebuild relationships and restore trust with the Jewish community. 

We are a multi-faith tolerant party and it is crucial that we make sure everyone knows our values through not just our words but also our actions – and as my Sufragette Sisters once said – Deeds not Words.

Religion and faith are immutable by their very nature, providing spiritual constancy over generations which people find meaningful and important.

However, the number of people in the UK who identify with traditional religions is now lower than ever before, sitting at less than half of the population, according to a British Social Attitudes survey carried out last year.

 

A third of people believe that there is “no God or spiritual power”. It is clear that, even as society changes, people’s faith and the forms in which they choose to practice it are definitely changing.

However, a majority of people still believe that there is a God or spiritual power, and of those many still identify with a religion.

So rather than the common narrative that people are turning their backs on faith, is it truer to say that in today’s society people are simply changing the ways they practice faith?

Religion and faith come in all shapes and sizes. And so, I would now like to take you back to my Suffragette Sisters, whom I mentioned a little earlier.

The fight against intolerance, in favour of openness and suffrage was a fight that went on 100 years ago this year. 100 years ago marked the first big break through for women with the 1918 Representation of the People Act which ensured that women over the age of 30 who met the archaic property requirements of the time could vote. This eventually paved the way for universal suffrage 10 years later in 1928.

It takes a great amount of faith to change established norms. When a movement starts as a protest and it seems almost impossible to change the existing system no matter how unjust and wrong that system is, it ultimately comes down to your own values and beliefs in what is right –

and ultimately it is that inner faith and belief which gives us the strength and courage to prevail. 

But believing in values and fighting for values are two very different things. Leadership was crucial in changing something that so many women already believed in and taking it to the next step of making it law. The actions of Millicent Fawcett, Emeline Pankhurst, Emily Davison and many more were crucial in fighting for the open society that we still fight for to this day. Basic women’s rights and equality – across the globe – still today - take a great deal of faith.

The shocking reality of this fight against intolerance in favour of openness is playing out today in the USA where the office of President Donald Trump – whose electoral win was a symptom rather than a cause of it – has ratcheted up existing tensions to a whole new level. 

Some of his policies make for a very uncomfortable and increasingly challenging view for how we in the UK might now view that “special relationship”.  But can I just say unlike Theresa May I won’t ever be holding Donald’s hand. 

 

When we look at where Trump is popular, not only does he gain a lot of support in what is called the “Rust belt”, former industrial communities that have seen widespread deindustrialisation and a break down in communities, but he is also popular in the bible belt.

These two examples show what massive amounts of work there is still to do in winning over both people who have seen their living standards fall and also Christians in the US who are supporting a man who espouses values so far removed from any form of Christianity that I know.  However, in these emerging pictures of life in the US, fear is winning.  

However, I am forever the optimist!  That is indeed my faith! Which is why there is a lot of hope to be gained from looking at the most recent mid-term results from the US.

Results that saw 100 women returned to Congress.  When the going gets tough the girls get going! 

These results  delivered Sharice Davids and Deb Haaland, the first Native American Women to be elected to Congress. While Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib became the first Muslim Women elected to Congress. And Jared Polis, the first openly gay governor. And in New York we saw the youngest congress women elected, 29 year-old Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

 

Obviously these are individual races.  But I take heart that it is the women who have stepped up at times of intolerance and presented an alternative view – one of openness and tolerance – and that against the backdrop we see play out have won their place to help to change that narrative. 

All the more important when you consider the changes in the Senate, where the hawks are soaring and the doves are currently in short supply.

With re-election coming in 2020 we need to continue the fight and resist the attack on democracy to see a more and more divided and in some cases more intolerant America.

 

Just in the fallout from the mid-term elections we have seen respected, experienced journalists completely silenced by Trump for simply asking fair and honest questions and holding him to account. Microphones literally being grabbed out of journalists’ hands. Silencing those who are trying to open up debate and shutting down channels of communication between those in power and those holding them to account might not seem like much on the surface, but a continuation of those principles can lead to a dangerous amount of power being held unaccountable.

There are a lot of scary headlines coming from America in 2018 but perhaps one of the worst was the recent murder of 11 Jews in Pittsburgh and many others injured in what has been confirmed as the worst anti Semitic attack in US history.

In such awful and violent situations it is almost impossible to look for any positive stories to come from this horrendous act of terrorism. It wasn’t until some time after the attack that the nurse who treated the shooter shared his experience on Facebook.

Ari Mahler, who is Jewish, said that he saw no evil in the eyes of the shooter. Even while the shooter was reportedly shouting, “Death to all Jews” as he was taken into the hospital, Ari Mahler said,

“My care is given through kindness; my actions are measured with empathy, regardless of the person you may be when you're not in my care”.

It is obvious to see why Ari’s story has gone viral around the world. If this nurse can do his job in some of the most difficult circumstances and fight intolerance and injustice in the way he has done, then it gives us all a reminder why our values of tolerance and openness are so vital. The power of Faith should never be under estimated.

Another place where faith showed up this year was when 12 boys and their coach were trapped in a cave in Thailand following a sudden rainfall flooding the cave and their route out.

At one point the team went for more than a week without contact with the outside world, with no clarification of

 

whether anyone would be able to get to them or even how much air they had left, they did not know their chances of survival.

Equally they did not know how long it might be before another sudden monsoon could have come.

With a rescue effort of more than 10,000 people including, divers, rescue workers, police officers and a billion litres of water being pumped out the cave, the boys and their coach were saved.

This was tragically at the cost of one of the divers who died while delivering supplies of air to those trapped. For me this was an amazing example of faith.

 

A belief amongst those trapped, as well as the 10,000 people helping, that gripped the rest of the world as so many of us felt a common sense of humanity with those boys.

In September Jeremy Corbyn gave his speech to party conference outlining his vision of the Labour Party.

He emphasised that international cooperation and solidarity with those who share our progressive goals abroad is how we build our movement internationally as well as at home.

I would like to extend my solidarity to the 12 Thai boys and their coach as well as Ari Mahler, for their acts of bravery and having faith to overcome the unbelievably difficult circumstances they were faced with this year.

The media always like to focus on the myth of left wing anarchy – but history shows that it is the right wing that we should pay close attention to. 

This year, at party conference, Jeremy spoke about the worrying rise once more of the far right. Minorities, Jews, Muslims and migrants are being blamed by some for the failures of our economic system.

That is why it is so important at this point in time to emphasise that these groups have nothing to do with the failure of our economic system, and that without the huge contribution from all minority groups our economic system would be even more broken.

 

 

Whether it is racism and bigotry in the US or at home, we as progressives have a duty to call it out for what it is and ensure that minorities are not blamed for the faults of others in positions of power.

I have tonight spared you the B word.  After all you’re here for an uplifting night out.  And, given the machinations of this week – Brexit has got more twists and turns than a John Grisham novel and frankly I am exhausted by it!  But leaving the deal aside for one moment – the questions about Brexit should really focus on why it was that so many people and communities felt so disenfranchised and that intolerance and immigration was used as a tool to whip up discontent with Europe.

And why it was that so many had lost their faith in society. 

Sadly, given the increases in poverty, child poverty, zero hours contracts, low wages, lack of decent housing, lack of affordable housing then at the very basic level of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs – these basic human needs are not being fulfilled. 

And depressingly, for me, there is no sign that they will be.  But I do keep the faith that sometime – soon – they just might.  But not with the current leadership. 

I think these challenging times and a rise in intolerance has taught us about how important it is to keep the faith and defend those values which we hold so dear.

No matter the challenges we face both at home and abroad, there are common values we share across the world with those who want to fight intolerance.

We must always remember that intolerance might not always be directed at us, but that does not mean it is any less important to fight it.

In fact, it is actually more important to fight against injustices that affect others because ultimately a lack of compassion and understanding will eventually creep into every area of society.

Last Sunday, we commemorated the 100th anniversary of the 1st world War, the war to end all wars. Except of course it was not. 

So it’s quite fitting that my closing remarks come from the 2nd world war – and were made by Pastor Martin Niemoller.  Whose words back then in 1946 are just as relevant today.

Because, as is often the way of things you don’t always realise what is at stake when suspicion and mistrust of the ‘other’ arises. 

Initially Niemoller did not have an issue with the rise of Nazism as he did not identify with those who were being persecuted: Socialists, Trade Unionists and Jews.

It was only when Hitler eventually wanted state control of German Protestant Churches that Niemoller spoke out and was imprisoned.

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

 

And so, each and every one of us here - as outward looking tolerant people of faith, must always speak out against all forms of persecution and intolerance.

Because we have all seen, how easy it is for that intolerance to become the norm,

and if we allow it to do so again, then we will not have learned the lessons of those that went before us,

and their sacrifices will have been in vain.

So, please keep and share the faith, for the sake of all of our humanity.

 

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Interfaith Event Dunfermline June 2018

Fife Interfaith group decided to hold a large event in Dunfermline at the Holy Trinity Church entitled “Sharing Interfaith Relations through Interfaith Dialogue and Service in the Community”.  There were five speakers Dr Maureen Sier, Chairman of Interfaith Scotland, Mrs Tuesday Palmer B Ed a member of Dunfermline Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Cllr Judy Hamilton of Fife Council a member of the Salvation Army, Canon Oliver O’Donovan of the Episcopalian Church and Imam Habibur Rehman of the Dunfermline Mosque.

 

All five speakers gave excellent talks from their own viewpoint and yet in so many ways they each had a reflection of the aims and ideals of the other speakers.  It was a great demonstration of the Interfaith idea of listening to other Faiths with an open mind and realising that there is a lot more that unites us than divides us.

 

After the talk refreshments were served giving everyone a chance to mingle and compare notes.  The meeting had been well attended with about 60 people in all enjoying the evening

Talk on Islamaphobia

Sid Akbar, who gave the talk started by talking about TellMAMA UK which is an acronym for “Measuring Anti-Muslim Attacks” which was formed as no records were being kept of the attacks against Muslims and he is here today to speak as a Scottish Muslim to his fellow Scots.

 

Sid’s family moved from Glasgow to Bannockburn when he was 5 years old and was part of the only Muslim family in the village and they had a hard time, he explained his experience of not being accepted as a bit like if a UFO had landed in a field and aliens from another world had arrived in Bannockburn.  He felt that it was newness of immigration to remote places which had never seen brown people rather than racism but this did not make it any easier.

 

He was a shy child and on his first day at his new school he was surprised when a teacher came and took him out of the class and tried speaking to him slowly in English to try and make him understand what was being said.  It appeared that they thought he couldn’t speak English when in fact he could and with a Glaswegian accent.  They called his parents in and they were shocked and assured the school that he could speak English very well. He reflected on this ignorance displayed by some based solely on how we look rather than what we are all capable of.

 

At school he spent lots of time alone as he was not welcomed by the other kids and was beaten up on a daily basis, sometimes three times a day at each break time.  One time, in the playground he was attacked by 20 boys and while on the floor could see the teacher who was on duty just standing there and doing nothing, so he presumed that this was OK and the price immigrants had to pay for being allowed to settle in the country.  His parents felt much the same.  The beatings got worse and worse as he progressed from primary to secondary school and after one particular incident which left him with two black eyes, a broken nose and two teeth knocked out his parents had enough of no one doing anything to protect their child and eventually he was transferred to a new school (Stirling High School) which had more diversity and life got a little easier, it was just the right time for Sid. As he grew up he was determined to confront the bullies who had given him such a hard time and without exception they all expressed how sorry they were and all apologized for the cruelty they had made him endure.  These experiences made him want to be someone who could change the world and make things better for others and especially tackling any form of bullying.

 

He went on to explain how he got involved in race equality work and behind the phenomenon of Islamaphobia and Racism is an $18 Billion dollar industry, with many right wing organizations which help to fund other right wing groups.  There is a focus on attacking Muslims and to foster Islamaphobia in society.  Social Media is used as an effective tool to foster this and to be very negative about Islam.

Tommy Robinson, the extreme right leader has made over £2 million in one year by making anti-Muslim videos on the media.  Yes there are Muslims who cause problems but any Migrant with a darker skin is branded a Muslim when of course not all immigrants are Muslims.

 

Imagine waking up and being attacked every day.  “Your religion is a cult”, “Your religion is evil!”  These sorts of comments causes great damage to our youth and makes them question their Faith or desire to retaliate.  Islamaphobia also targets and attacks other Faiths such as Hindus and Sikhs believing they are Muslims and now crossing into other immigrants with a darker skin.  In America the Sikhs bore the brunt of the prejudice after 9/11.

 

Islamists are blamed, quite rightfully for some terrorist attacks but in Europe the rise in terrorism arises from Right Wing Groups.  In America, 79% of terror attacks arise from Right Wing Groups. I am pleased to say that I was not brought up to think of them and us and I ask everyone to make sure that everyone fits in to the community so that together we show we are there for one another and to tackle all extremism together as communities.

 

A question was asked about the name Islamaphobia as, basically, an irrational fear of a religion and really just naked racism. Sidd quoted concerning a radio broadcast concerning Racism and ask parents for young Muslims to speak in the programme.  Most people asked didn’t want their children put forward because they were immigrants and feared a backlash.  Racism is rife and Muslims bear the brunt.  People associate Islam with ISIS and because of this and 9/11, attacks on Muslims increased 400%.  In the past Christianity has been responsible for the destruction of other civilizations which they conquered and yet this fact is always overlooked.  Sid has spoken to Tommy Robinson and other right wing hate preachers and asked them to change their rhetoric from ALL Muslims to SOME Muslims but they were not willing to do this.  This same attitude is shown by events in Northern Ireland between Catholics and Protestants.

 

Islamaphobia and Race Hate are much worse in Scotland, especially sectarian hate reflecting the position in Northern Ireland.  Media is always stirring it up either privately or by the press.  The Koran is misquoted out of context of the verses either side.  The Koran condemns killing a person saying “To Kill one person is the same as to kill all mankind”.

 

Foreign policy in the Middle East also does not help as it divides communities and all based on our leader’s lusts for oil.

 

Sid asked the group to try to make a Muslim friend and learn their point of view and see how much we all have in common.

 

A question about the Burka and Niqab was answered in that it was a custom which predates Judaism.  There is a wide divergence of views concerning what “Modesty” means in the Koran.  It is not Islamic that wife should be forced to wear a Burka or a Niqab, so shouldn’t happen and in many cases it is Culture rather than religion which results in the wearing of these garments. Sid also answered the question by saying that as a man he feels men have no right to tell women what to wear, whether it be a bikini or Burka, there is sexism in the very fact men try to dictate what women can and cannot wear.

 

If we add up all the terror attacks globally there are about 200 to 300 thousand terrorists which works out as 0.006% of the global Muslim population and this fact should put the matter in the right context. If Islamists are barely half a percent of all Muslims then surely 99.94% of Muslims show that Islam is indeed a religion of peace.

 

It’s strange that the media never points this fact out?

 

Sid was thanked for his talk and answers and the Group then took refreshments and further discussions followed.

 

 

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