Interfaith talk – “Sitting as a Latter-day Saint at the Interfaith Table: a Personal and Theological Reflection.”

On the evening of January 12th, forty eight people linked up by zoom to hear Professor James Holt, Associate Professor of Religious Education at the University of Chester, talk on “Sitting as a Latter-day Saint at the Interfaith Table: a Personal and Theological Reflection.”

This was a most interesting and stimulating address and stressed the importance of interfaith dialogue in a very positive manner. He started off by explaining that when he first went to University to study Theology his family was worried that exposure to other faiths might turn his head; that he might get “contaminated” and that people of different faiths should not meet. The main thrust of his talk, however, was spent showing how very rewarding and fulfilling interfaith engagement can be. People are not that different, he said, and can build positive relationships. Many faiths have a lot in common and share, for instance, the Golden Rule, but it is also important to recognize differences as these are important, and to be respectful of them. We can be changed by discussions with other people and should look for the strengths of other religions, not pick holes in them, and see what we can learn. We are ALL children of God, and we should not judge but love others – a message that often gets missed in our society.

Engaging with others can be transformative, and Professor Holt showed how people of other faiths have changed him and given him greater insight into various religious practices while he remained rooted in his own faith. He urged us to receive truth whatever its source, and that his truth has come through the people he has met. He also stressed that interfaith is not just about talking about things but also doing things together, and working together for the common good which is the best way to break down barriers.

There was a very lively question and answer session which involved topics such as whether it is possible to love a criminal, how the Church reaches out to the community at large, the nature of the Sunday services, the hierarchical structure of his Church, and many more. Ruth Neal, Chair of AIG, then thanked Professor Holt for explaining about his beliefs and the Church of Latter-day Saints as few of us knew much about it, and also for encouraging us in talking about his faith.

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Alf Keeling Memorial Lecture, 17 November 2020

This event was timed to follow Interfaith Week and the Very Reverend Rogers Govender, Dean of Manchester Cathedral, delivered a most inspiring talk entitled “Interfaith: connection and inclusion for the common good.” Over forty people zoomed in to hear the Dean talk about how we should all celebrate diversity and difference in our cities and towns, as we are all made in the image of God. He cited Nelson Mandela as an example of someone who had a vision of the common good, someone who was able to make peace even with those who had put him in prison for 27 years. Mahatma Gandhi also had a vision of a united humanity. The Dean contrasted these great men with what has been happening in the United States where the common good is not put first and he prayed that things would calm down there swiftly.

Dean Govender suggested that Mandela’s vision of enemies living in peace together should be an example to us and that we should create conditions where all people can flourish. We should look for the well-being of everyone, celebrate difference and make connections with people outside our normal boundaries. Our Interfaith group is a good example of this and we must ensure that religion does not divide people. No one should think his or her religion is better than the others, as all the religions are connected and we are all humankind. Inclusion of others is important, regardless of gender, creed or sexuality. We should work together – as Rabbi Jonathan Sacks said, “Face to face is good but side by side is better.” The Dean challenged us by asking what we were doing to promote this vision? We each must develop harmony, respect and compassion for the homeless, the poor and for children.

Following his address there were many questions and the discussion ranged far and wide, from suggesting projects we could all do together, comparisons between life here and in South Africa (the Dean’s original home), the problems of aging congregations in churches and the need to attract young people, the evils of terrorism and whether faith schools should be banned or not. The Dean stressed the importance of promoting the common good and good values, and how we must look to the future.

It was an excellent evening and we thank the Dean most sincerely for a truly uplifting and positive experience.

Carolyn Jones (Hon. Sec., Altrincham Interfaith Group)

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YOUNG VOICES Report ,10 Sept 2020

The “Young Voices” event proved to be one of the most inspiring and uplifting occasions ever hosted by Altrincham Interfaith Group. Screened via Zoom, a panel of six young people from a variety of faith groups (Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Baha’i and Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) each talked about an aspect of his or her faith that they particularly enjoyed and then answered questions put forward by those listening. Hosted by Ann Angel and Robert Shield from Menorah Synagogue, and with Rahma Anis as facilitator, the main theme that emerged was that all the panelists enjoyed being part of a community and that their main desire was to help others. Firstly Aisha, a Muslim, talked about the sense of community and family that Islam brought, as did Becca from the Jewish tradition. James, from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints found his experience in the townships of South Africa very meaningful, whilst Josh, a Catholic, went to help the poor in Sierra Leone. Nabil, from the Baha’i faith, stressed the oneness of humanity and brotherhood of all people and his enjoyment in teaching children and watching them develop. Likewise Sharada, a Hindu, enjoyed teaching religion to children via VOICE (Vedic Organization for Indian Culture and Education) and visiting schools and colleges to talk about Hinduism. She also loved the colourful Hindu festivals and dances.

How these young people tackled questions showed how very articulate and thoughtful they all were. The question – What are some of the challenges and response to these challenges that your faith will face in the future – produced interesting answers. Aisha discussed the existence of preconceived ideas about Islam, and how the media cause a lack of understanding of the faith and even hostility, and how she tried to combat this by showing the true face of Islam. Joshua also said people had the idea that his Catholic church was closed when in reality it welcomed everyone, regardless of race or denomination, while Nabil (Baha’i) discussed the challenge of Coronavirus and the difficulty of engaging with and helping people during lockdown.

They were also asked – How important are the Holy books to you, when they were written so long ago? James told how the Book of Mormon and the Bible were still helpful even now, while Sharada said that core messages from the Hindu books could still be applied today. Becca had studied the Torah and found she could apply it to modern life.

Asked whether Science and Religion could co-exist produced some differing replies, with more conservative responses from James (LDS Church) and Aisha (Muslim), who believed in creation by God, while Nabil (Baha’i) believed in harmony between science and religion; science helping us to understand the world but religion providing a spiritual aspect.

When asked whether there is a balance in teaching about different faith groups, it transpired that it was mainly the Abrahamic faiths that were taught, with little focus on Hinduism. A question about discrimination produced some interesting responses, with James describing his fellow students as thinking him “weird” because he went to Church, while Nabil found he could practice his Baha’i faith freely in the UK, unlike other places in the world. He said we should celebrate other religion, as we are all really one. Becca had noticed a rise in anti-Semitism in the press but she herself had not experienced anything too extreme.

All the panelists agreed that youth was really important in religion, that it was their responsibility to present a more vibrant representation of their faiths. They all expressed a desire to contribute in a meaningful way to the world, which was very uplifting to hear.

Ann Angel thanked Rahma for her expert facilitation, the panelists for their sensitive and stimulating contributions and members of the committee for finding such amazing panel members. It really was a very uplifting event and with such young people in our communities it makes one very hopeful for the future of the world.

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Young Voices

Register to join this unique event on Thursday, 10th September evening, where we get an opportunity to hear from a young speakers about “An aspect of their faith, religion or culture that they particularly enjoy” , followed by Q&A

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Grand Zoom Quiz on 11th June 2020

On a windy June night 25 members of the AIG “Zoomed” in to in our biennial quiz night. Angela Fowler, our quiz-maker extraordinaire, devised and hosted a stimulating, witty and fast-paced series of rounds that kept us guessing to the end. Robert Shields, our tech wizard, ensured that we could listen, talk and laugh. He also contributed a creative round of picture riddles and musical conundrums. We congratulate the winners, Val and Peter Heywood on their great score.

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