Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Ruth Tetlow reports on the recent Birmingham Peace Walk in Lozells

I was one of about 40 people who enjoyed taking part in the annual Birmingham Peace Walk on Saturday. Thanks to Lozells Project and the Faith in Lozells interfaith group, and to Pall Singh in particular, we visited four different places of worship within the morning. At each one we were welcomed and friendships were made and strengthened as we walked through the streets of Lozells together. The purpose was to recognise that all faiths have much in common, and that they can live and work together for peace.

The starting point was the Buddhist Maha Vihara in Hockley. Yann Lovelock, Secretary of the Vihara, told us the story of the Buddhist community in the area and how the Maha Vihara serves Buddhists from several different national origins. The Maha Vihara also serves the local community, under the able leadership of the Ven Kassapa. Although Buddhism is recognised as a faith, Buddhists do not worship God, but practise meditation to free themselves of worldly attachment. This enables them to live with compassion and selflessness.

We followed the Peace Walk banner on to St Mary’s Convent in Hunters Road, where we were welcomed by Sr Helen, the leader of the Roman Catholic community there. The Sisters of Mercy follow a long tradition of service to the poor, and are able to use their beautiful premises for conferences and retreats. At present they are trying to involve local young people in setting up a food bank, to serve the community. Sr Helen explained that they are following the way of Jesus Christ, who had a special empathy with those who are excluded.

We then went to the Faizul Quran Mosque in Lozells Rd. We were warmly welcomed by Matloob Hussein and also met Imam Shabraz Khan. They told us how they worked for 10 years to build the beautiful mosque they now have and about the prayers and classes that take place there. They also spoke about the effect of the riots in the area a few years ago and their efforts to prevent such disturbances happening again. We should have liked to have learnt more about the beliefs which motivate Muslims.

Finally, we walked to the Sri Dashmesh Sikh Temple in Wheeler St. We all willingly covered our heads in accordance with Sikh practice. We were welcomed into a small prayer hall, with the Guru Granth Sahib as its focal point. This is the Sikh scriptures, which to them is a living Guru. We were addressed by two prominent Sikh community leaders, Dr Jagjit S. Taunque and Mr Sohal. We then experienced the famous Sikh hospitality of the langar, or community dining room, where home cooked vegetarian food is freely available to all comers.

At each place we read the famous prayer attributed to St Francis of Assisi:

Lord, make us an instrument of your peace
Where there is hatred, let us sow love,
Where there is injury, pardon,
Where there is doubt, faith,
Where there is despair, hope,
Where there is darkness, light,
Where there is sadness, joy.

We felt we had made another small step on behalf of harmony in Lozells, through praying for peace at each place, and encouraging places of worship to be open to others in the community. We were very aware of how much we still had to learn about our neighbours’ beliefs and customs.

Ruth Tetlow: Faith Encounter Programme


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