Response to the current conflict in Israel and Gaza

The current conflict in Gaza and Israel is truly shocking and devastating. Many local residents have friends or family directly affected. We hope and pray for all those caught in this cruel conflict.

The Altrincham Interfaith Group was set up to bring together the major faith groups in the area, to help improve knowledge and understanding of one another, to develop friendships between people of the different faiths, and to work together to make a positive contribution to our local community.

Our vision is of developing a cohesive community, where there is no fear of the ‘the other’ and at times of tension, nationally or internationally we are determined to continue working together as neighbours in peace and harmony.

Now is a time to draw together, to actively listen to one another in order to truly understand each other’s diverse narratives, to unite against those who would divide us, and to treat one another with mutual love, care and respect.

Elinor Chohan (Chairperson AIG)

Altrincham Interfaith Group visit to the Jain Temple, Manchester.

On the evening of July 4th a group of about 25 people from AIG made their way to the Jain Temple in Longsight, Manchester, to learn about the Jain religion and to see the Temple. We were warmly greeted by Suresh Mehta, Chair of the Board of Trustees, and taken to a meeting room where some aspects of the religion were discussed.

It is one of the oldest religions in the world and is characterised by Ahimsa or non-violence, which relates to not only physical violence but to hateful speech and to being vegetarian, not eating meat , fish or eggs. Jains avoids eating root and underground  vegetables like onions, potatoes, carrots,  beetroots, garlic and ginger to prevent injuring small insects and microorganisms, and also to prevent the entire plant getting uprooted and killed.

We were taken to see the Temple itself which was made of white marble and very beautiful and invited to ring the bell, which many of our members did. There were statues of three Jinas, revered teachers who explained the Jain religion over various periods of antiquity – Bhagwan (Lord) Parshvanath, Bhagwan (Lord) Mahavir and Bhagwan (Lord) Shantinath; there are 24 Jinas altogether and they were represented on a wall hanging adjoining the temple.

There was then more explanation by Suresh Mehta and Mina Desai, a committee member of AIG who is also a Jain, and the importance of the life of Ghandi was stressed and his teacher Shrimad Rajchandra, a revered Jain whose photo was on the wall of the meeting room. We were also told that some beliefs are shared with the Hindu, Sikh and Buddhist religions, including Reincarnation and The Theory of Karma. There were several questions before we were offered drinks and biscuits, and we thank Suresh and Mina for their kind hospitality and giving us the opportunity of seeing this sacred place.

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

AIG Grand Anniversary Tea May 14th 2023

May this year saw the 20th anniversary of the founding of Altrincham Interfaith Group and to celebrate this landmark an Anniversary Tea Party was organised to be held on May14th at Blessed Thomas Holford Catholic College. It was to be a Bring and Share event with all the faith groups contributing plates of sandwiches and cakes. It was a great success with masses of food and a really happy atmosphere as this was the first time a large number of people in AIG had met together since the beginning of Covid. After a welcome from the AIG Chair, Dr Kaushik Chakraborty, the Mayor of Trafford, Councillor Chris Boyes, gave a greeting and after prayers from founder members of the group the tea began. Guest speaker Iftikhar Awan, another founder member, gave an address in which he described how the group began, and Vice-Chair Elinor Chohan gave a moving speech about the future of our Interfaith group. We are most grateful to Blessed Thomas Holford Catholic College for the use of their premises and especially to Laura Hussain, School Events and Communications Co-ordinator, for facilitating this.

Carolyn Jones (Honorary Secretary, Altrincham Interfaith Group)

Alf Keeling Memorial Lecture November 16th 2022

This year we were very privileged in having Professor Geoff Levermore of the University of Manchester as our speaker for the Alf Keeling Memorial Lecture. He has been researching the effects of climate change and was the UK lead author of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fourth Assessment Report which was awarded the Nobel Peace prize in 2007. The subject of his talk was Climate Change, Religion and Ethics.

Over 80 people attended the lecture at St Ambrose Preparatory School in Hale Barns as Professor Levermore explained very clearly the causes of climate change and how Global Warming had now reached such an extent that it would not be possible to achieve the aim of a maximum 1.5° increase in temperature by 2050 and that this was due almost entirely to human activity. Instead, we are on track for a 2.9°C rise which could be reduced to 2.1°C if the net zero plan is implemented. With graphs showing very significant rises in emissions since the industrial revolution, he explained how the composition of the air thousands of years ago could be analysed by using cores of arctic ice that had air bubbles trapped inside, and this compared with modern samples.

The heat islands generated by cities and new tower blocks were also a cause for concern and we need to transform our cities and also cut down on the use of fossil fuels, especially in China which is currently one of the worst offenders. At present, our energy use is the equivalent of 1,800,000 Hiroshima bombs a day, EVERY DAY.

The option of changing lifestyles to mitigate effects was discussed but few people are prepared to do this, and this led on to the issue of religion and what the holy books say about climate change and to ideas about the nature of God, especially as espoused by Professor Gordon Kaufman (1925-2011) who proposed considering God as “creativity,” a concept that excludes no major religious faith.

Finally, Professor Levermore discussed moral and ethical aspects, and the importance of altruistic morality – the best form of morality which involves doing things for people we do not know. He concluded by stressing the importance of immediate and rapid change, and that it is our moral duty to assist in this as much as possible.

There was a lively question and answer session afterwards and refreshments were served following the talk. We are sincerely grateful to St Ambrose Preparatory School for the use of their hall and thank everyone who helped to make this event such a success.

Carolyn Jones

(Hon. Sec., Altrincham Interfaith Group)