Category Archives: WCF

Reflections on the 80th Anniversary Year

Jenny Kartupelis writes:

2016, the year of our 80th anniversary, has drawn to a close and as we move into 2017 it seems a good time to reflect briefly on the gifts of the year. Members of the World Congress of Faiths (WCF) have been joined at a variety of events by guests and new friends, who have in turn enriched the discussion and brought new viewpoints.

Planning in 2015 for the forthcoming anniversary, the Trustees reviewed the role of WCF in the light of wide ranging conversations with academe, practitioners and potential partners and in the context of other interfaith activity in the UK and beyond. They decided that there was a need for greater understanding of the interaction between spiritual life and interfaith relationships, and also that WCF could be well placed to facilitate exploring and promoting the potential of such interaction as a bridge between perspectives.

The year therefore started with a symposium at Sarum College, which brought together members, academics, and practitioners from fields ranging from local interfaith groups to professional psychiatry.

The resulting conversations, reflected in four articles by participants in the ‘Creative Encounters’ section of Interreligious Insight (June 2016) confirmed the importance of WCF as a facilitator and mediator of ideas into the public realm. In the editorial to this issue, Revd Dr Alan Race commented: ‘What was fascinating about the symposium was the emergence of a kaleidoscopic nature… of spirituality: it was an inherent quality in being human, connected as much with our bodies as our minds; it was transformative in character for individuals and society or it was nothing at all; it remains a vehicle for expressing human needs, sufferings, hopes and desires irrespective of the cultural shape those expressions take’ (p 5). A full report of the symposium will shortly be published in the Journal for the Study of Spirituality.

A full day conference in September 2016, held at Emmanuel College Cambridge, provided the perfect arena to take forward these conversations; the agenda covered both the history and future prospects for interfaith activity from a variety of perspectives. The theme of the morning was ‘The Growth of Religious Pluralism’, to which speakers Rev Dr Alan Race, Professor Ursula King, and Dr Ankur Barua gave (respectively) theological, feminist and Dharmic responses. In the afternoon the theme was ‘Religion in Society’, with Rabbi Dr Tony Bayfield speaking on ‘Observations from the Cutting Edge: What are the Challenges for the Next Generation?’ and Professor Chris Baker on ‘Religion and Public life: beliefs, hopes and fears’.

To ensure a variety of contribution, each presentation was moderated by someone of a different faith and gender from the speaker, inviting discussion from the floor. The day concluded with ‘Reflections for the future’ from Dr Edward Kessler and Dr Riaz Ravat. Those attending rated the day very highly, with comments including ‘Good variety… with coherent theme running through the day’ and ‘Fantastic range and very high level engagement’; the Trustees therefore felt the event took forward the aim of WCF to ‘make interfaith activity in the UK more effective, by contributing through innovative dialogue to the improvement of understanding’ through a continual renewal and synthesis of relevant knowledge, garnered by members and partners, and mediated into the public realm.

The annual Younghusband Lecture in November was chosen to continue this trajectory by enabling the author of the groundbreaking study The Master and his Emissary: the Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World to apply his theory for the first time in public specifically to questions of spirituality and religion. Dr Iain McGilchrist is a qualified doctor, scientist and philosopher, whose work is rooted in a detailed understanding and analysis of how the brain works, and the relationship between the right and left hemispheres. His thesis is that the modern world is facing a major problem, in that we are losing a holistic understanding of reality in favour of a more fragmented view based on a limited dualism, which is about being judgmental as opposed to judicious; this clearly throws an important light on how relationships between faiths are conducted. His presentation is summarised in our previous blog The Riddle of the One and the Many: the 2016 Younghusband Lecture, and further reflections appear in the article THE RIDDLE OF THE ONE AND THE MANY: the insight of Dr Iain McGilchrist and its relevance to practice in Interreligious Insight (January 2017) (pp 84-88).

While members and Trustees take seriously their aim to ensure that WCF plays a useful role in interfaith practice and spiritual life, they enjoy a party as much as anyone, and were delighted to hold a summer garden party for friends and supporters in the lovely setting of the Royal Foundation of St Katherine in London’s dockland area. The 80th anniversary was celebrated in style, with music provided by the Berakah Choir, and an endorsement in person of WCF’s work by Rt Hon Stephen Timms MP, Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Faith and Society. The guest speaker was Harmander Singh, who is not only a tireless worker for interfaith, but also trains older Sikhs to run marathons. His presentation can be read in the blog Running is like a religion to me.

WCF is now looking forward with hope and excitement to welcoming members and friends to its 2017 events, trusting that these will prove stimulating, and provide more food for thought and action.

Yuletide Reflections

Kevin Commons writes:

Yule Tide Reflections

On 21 December the Turning Wheel Buddhist Temple was packed for the annual celebration of the winter solstice. We reflected on the regular pattern of movement through the seasons of the year, which reminded us of the omnipresent and perpetual nature of change. I was, however, aware of the beginnings of a sore throat which turned out to be quite a bad a cold. By Saturday 24th I had decided that I needed to rest and allow the cold to run its course. I was pretty washed out by 25th and so not able to go on the bike ride I had planned, although I was able to visit my elder daughter and her family for Christmas lunch.

I used the morning to listen, on the BBC I Player, to Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets from the previous Thursday’s “In our time”. I was astounded by the mystical content of Eliot’s writing though I have to confess to being pretty ignorant about poetry. However, I was disappointed that the discussion only went into the mystical aspect of the poems at the end and then only referred to Dame Julian of Norwich, who is quoted in one of the poems discussed. The literary experts seemed to miss many opportunities of making the obvious connections with eastern religion though, when they were talking about war, there was a reference to Arjuna1. There were no links made with either Taoism or Buddhism. It seems to me that Eliot through his Anglo-Catholicism had had experience of the ‘beyond words’ nature of reality (or Just Being) that is central to Zen.

This reminded me of my own background in Anglo-Catholicism and one of my favourite hymns (Corde Natus Ex Parentis) that was regularly used for the procession at the Christmas midnight Mass. Although I have been a Zen Buddhist for over twenty five years the opening two verses still have particular resonance for me:

Of the Father’s Heart begotten

Ere the world from chaos rose

He is Alpha from that Fountain

All that is and hath been flows

He is Omega of all things

Yet to come the mystic close

Evermore and evermore

By his word was all created

He commanded and ‘twas done

Earth and sky and boundless ocean

Universe of three in one

All that sees the moon’s soft radiance

All that breathes beneath the sun

Evermore and evermore

They point to the Oneness of All things or as we might say “All is One and All is different”. This point is underpinned by the notion of “End and Beginning” being essentially connected, which is apparently a major theme in much of Eliot’s work.

These ideas of the continuous flow of life reminded me of the Sandokai2, as is illustrated by the following extracts. First, the opening line:

From west to east, unseen, flowed out the Mind of India's greatest Sage

And to the source kept true as an unsullied stream is clear.

And later on:

And yet, in each related thing, - as leaves grow from the roots,

End and beginning here return to the source - and "high" and "low" are used respectively.

The scripture then points out that Zen practice is not about the victory of light over darkness, but rather states:

Within all light is darkness

But explained it cannot be by darkness that one-sided is alone.

In darkness there is light

But, here again, by light one-sided it is not explained.

Light goes with darkness

As the sequence does of steps in walking;

All things herein have inherent, great potentiality,

Both function, rest, reside within.

The next five verses of Corde Natus Ex Parentis are essentially a description of Christian theology but the final two verses revert to a more Universal theme:

Now let old and young uniting

Chant to thee harmonious lays

Maid and matron hymn thy glory,

Infant lips their anthem raise,

Boys and girls together singing

With pure heart their song of praise,

Evermore and evermore

Let the storm and summer sunshine

Gliding stream and sounding shore

Sea and forest, frost and zephyr

Day and night their lord adore

Let creation join to laud thee

Through the ages evermore

Evermore and evermore

It seems to me that this kind of reflection has the potential for a deeper form of inter-faith dialogue than often occurs. There are many different ways, or modes, in which people can engage in interfaith activities. Some examples are summarised in the following table:

Modes of Interfaith Engagement

Mode

Mode description

Mode Title

1

Simple friendliness and acceptance of the culture of others

“Tea and samosas”

2

Interest in and finding out more about the beliefs of others

“The pursuit of knowledge”

3

Joint celebrations to commemorate local or national events.

“Shared celebrations”

4

Joint action on individual issues of common concern as they arise that are for the benefit of others

“The joint compassionate response”

5

Systematic joint social and political action with others which promotes Kohlberg’s notion of the “Just Community3

“Universal justice and democracy”

6

Exploration of the deepest Truth by individual practitioners within their own religious tradition and willingness to share personal insights with others

“Faith Beyond Belief”

7

Realisation of the deepest Truth that is hidden behind the doctrines and dogmas of all the main world faiths and willingness to share personal understanding with others.

“Universalising Faith”

Unfortunately much of the formal interfaith activity seems to focus on mode 2 but usually it does not go beyond this, although there are some examples of interfaith activities that fit into mode 3 and 4, often on an informal basis. Quakers and members of the Bahá’í community worldwide are clearly concerned with issues located at mode 5 but there is little evidence of joint activity in this regard. Interfaith activity that focuses on modes 6 and 7, if it exists, does not seem to be very high profile. However, I am certain that there are practitioners in all religious traditions that are already looking more deeply into the meaning of their faith beyond the formal prescriptions of dogma and doctrine. Unfortunately, they do not seem to come together to share their insights, or if they do the fruits of their discussion is not widely published within the individual faith communities.

Maybe writing, like that of T.S. Eliot and other forms of poetry, including a few well chosen hymns, could be a fairly tradition-neutral catalyst for discussion in the ‘Faith Beyond Belief4’ and ‘Universalising Faith5’ modes of interfaith engagement6.

Footnotes

1. Arjuna is the central figure in the Bhagavad Gita.

2. Sandokai is a scripture recited in Zen ceremonies c.f. Kennett P.T.N.H (1990) “The Liturgy of the Order of Buddhist Contemplatives for the Laity” Shasta Abbey Press

3. See McDonough G.P. “Moral maturity and autonomy; appreciating the significance of Lawrence Kohlberg’s Just Community”, Journal of Moral Education, Volume 34, Issue 2, (2005)

4. Commons K. (2015) “Faith Beyond Belief; A Theoretical Background”, an e-book from: Leicester University Chaplaincy: www2.le.ac.uk/chaplaincy/world-faiths

5. Fowler, James W. (1981) “Stages of Faith”, Harper & Row

6. Since penning these reflections I visited the World Congress of Faiths’s web-site, which included dipping into the 2012 edition of its journal “Insight”, where I was fascinated to read Alan Race’s obituary for John Hick and John Barnett’s article “Is mystical experience beneficial to interreligious relations?” Their work suggests that dialogue at the deeper end of the spiritual journey between people of different faiths is not only possible but is probably happening, at least in written form, more than I am aware.

Appendix “Interfaith Celebrations”

That people of different religions can observe their own festivals etc is a necessary part of a healthy pluralistic society. However, there is a place for joint celebration as well but this is more difficult. I have long held the opinion that the only spiritual activity that people of any faith (or none) can engage in wholeheartedly, without compromising their beliefs, is silent meditation/contemplation. On the other hand sitting together in silence does not have the feel of celebration. In practice joint celebrations are not really joint activities but rather events managed by one religion with people from other religions invited and joining in as best they can.

Singing together is a good form of celebration, which is regularly done in a variety of contexts both religious and secular. I could not help wondering whether there might be some mileage in developing religious songs that have a universal applicability. Consequently, I have taken the first two and last two verses of Corde Natus Ex Parentis and tweaked the wording in an attempt to produce a faith neutral hymn that might have meaning for people of any religion or none. The following is the result:

Of the Heart of All begotten

Ere the world from chaos rose

It is Alpha from that Fountain

All that is and has been flows

It is Omega of all things

Yet to come as life on-goes

Evermore and evermore

By Its word was all created

It commanded and ‘twas done

Earth and sky and boundless ocean

Universe of three in one

All that sees the moon’s soft radiance

All that breathes beneath the sun

Evermore and evermore

Now let old and young uniting

Chant aloud harmonious lays

Maid and matron hymn Its glory,

Infant lips their anthem raise,

Boys and girls together singing

With pure heart their song of praise,

Evermore and evermore

Let the storm and summer sunshine

Gliding stream and sounding shore

Sea and forest, frost and zephyr

Day and night the Source adore.

Let creation join in contemplation

From the first and yet to come

Evermore and evermore

Wishing You Seasonal Greetings, the Joy of Christmas and a Peaceful New Year

Marcus Braybrooke posts

To you all,

The turmoil, uncertainty, racism and violence of the world make the angels’ message of peace and goodwill more urgent than ever. We found this verse of Timothy Dudley-Smith’s hymn ‘Here on the threshold of a new beginning’ had a message for us.

May we, your children, feel with Christ's compassion

an earth disordered, hungry and in pain;

then, at your calling, find the will to fashion

new ways where freedom, truth and justice reign;

where wars are ended, ancient wrongs are righted,

and nations value human life and worth;

where in the darkness lamps of hope are lighted

and Christ is honoured over all the earth.

 

. We also hope that you will have a wonderful Christmas and start the New Year with

‘Faith strong to welcome all that lies before us,

Our unknown future, knowing God is there.’

Thank you for your support for WCF.  It has been an encouraging year, with excellent programmes to mark WCF's eightieth year

With our love

Mary and Marcus

Seeking a common spirit in dialogue: World Congress of Faiths 80th anniversary Conference

Seeking a common spirit in dialogue: World Congress of Faiths 80th anniversary Conference
This post first appeared on www.ekklesia.co.uk
By Jill Segger October 10, 2016
picture-389    

A fruitful gathering of minds may be measured by the questions it raises rather than by the answers it provides. The 80th anniversary conference of the World Congress of Faiths (WCF) which took place in Emmanuel College, Cambridge on 23 September 2016, gathering academics, clerics and what might perhaps be described as religious professionals, met that metric.

Though fitting into none of the above categories, I did not feel out of place. A Quaker is something of a tabula rasa at such an event. Being without creeds, members of the Religious Society of Friends are largely free of the temptation to evaluate the faith stances of others in relation to a perceived standard of orthodoxy. 'Rooted in Christianity but open to new light', we are comfortable with paradox and are generally fluent in ambiguity – qualities which I hoped to find at this conference. I was not disappointed.

The theme of the day was 'Religious Pluralism and Interfaith: learning for the future'. The speakers and moderators came from the Christian, Hindu, Islamic, Jewish and Sikh traditions. Some spoke from a feminist perspective, others from a social stance while some considered the relationship of faith bodies to civil society. All, in different ways, addressed the difficulties, failures and obstacles which religions may both experience and present to others while offering fresh thinking and a sense of purpose for the future. They may, perhaps, have been in danger of preaching to the choir, but the potential – and indeed the necessity – of finding a means of understanding the commonality of faith as an integral component of human progress was powerfully made. In a society which tends towards religious illiteracy, yet is divided by faith and frequently hostile to it, that interfaith choir must step out from the shelter of what could easily become a theoretical and slightly self-satisfied space. It has to find a means of transcending evangelism, partisan interest and intellectual comfort if it is take its music out into a world to whom thinking in abstractions and conference-speak do not come easily. I do not claim to know how this is to be done but there were sufficient glimmers of light within the contributions to inspire the hope of a continuing evolution.

This is not a piece of straight reportage and will not therefore present a précis of each speaker's thesis. I will rather concentrate on the two contributions which spoke to my condition and which seem to me to stimulate reflection on present difficulties, hopes and future paths. The omissions do not represent a slight nor should they be read as indicative of a lack of interest.

The first speaker was Dr Alan Race, Chair of the WCF. He spoke of the passing of colonialism and empire. He reminded us that just as we now have post-colonial politics, we must engage with post-colonial religion – perhaps a particular area of difficulty for some strands of Christianity which, even if no longer adhering to the 'Christendom' model, may find it difficult to step out from its shadow. However, he suggested this is something of which we are learning to let go, enabling the discovery of the “pull to celebrate and not lament our differences” rather than seeking to make others in our own image – or, I might add – expect privileges for that template.

It is not everywhere so. He touched on Islamic State and the Hindutva movement, both of which align “the empire of the mind” with territorial claims. It must be acknowledged that there are groupings within Europe who do likewise in respect to Christianity.

Dr Race took four features from the inaugural WCF Conference in 1936 for our consideration and as a challenge to the present day:

An awareness that the world was undergoing the unprecedented birth-pangs of a sense of there being ‘one world’, of real differentiation but with a unity yet to be forged.

The fellowship to which world-conscious human beings were called was in some sense a natural outcome of the processes of history, needing to be met and recognised as such.

Recognition that any emerging ‘world-consciousness’ had considerable obstacles to overcome, not least the imminence of war (this was Europe in 1936)), the deep antagonisms between religions from the past, and the social conditions of many peoples in poorer parts of the world. These are of course, conditions obtaining just as strongly in our own time.

A sense of aspiration:

- towards universal brother(sister)hood

- towards some sense of rapprochement in religious understanding and cooperation

- towards assuming that spiritual vision is a step up in terms of models for ‘world-consciousness’ based on purely economic or political or philosophical reason alone

- towards thinking that differences need not be a hindrance to a fellowship of faiths and might even be an incentive

- towards trusting that individuals and traditions might share in a life of ‘spirit’.

I believe this last clause challenges us to reflect not on outward forms, but on experience – something which probably speaks to more 'seekers' in 2016 than would have been the case in the more formal culture of 80 years ago.

Dr Race's own book Christians and Religious Pluralism posits the idea that we all fall into one of three camps: exclusivist, inclusivist or pluralist. He emphasised that such a framing may be contested and the importance of people of all religions getting to know each other on a deep level before attempting much comment on each other's theologies. He cited a question once asked of an Anglican Archbishop: “ I want to know what you think of my religion” – an essential question which faces us with ongoing challenges of true respect rather than of working compromises or a pretence of more agreement than may actually exist.

The contribution of Reform Rabbi Tony Bayfield, Professor of Jewish Theology and Thought at Leo Baeck College, was entitled 'Observations from the cutting edge: challenges for the next generation'. Centring round that need to know each other, here exemplified in the dialogue of the Council of Christians and Jews (CCJ), he presented four main challenges: 'de-idolising sacred texts', 'the scourge of absolutism', 'the values of the post-modern western world' and 'the role of religion in modern western democratic states'.

Quoting the Californian philosopher Sam Harris, he points up a problem which lies at the heart of popular perception of religion as a source of conflict and violence: “A glance at history, or at the pages of any newspaper, reveals that ideas which divide one group of human beings from another, only to unite them in slaughter, generally have their roots in religion. It seems that if our species ever eradicates itself through war, it will not be because it was written in the stars but because it was written in our books”. Although objecting to the inherent crudity of this approach, Rabbi Bayfield acknowledged it as a major obstacle – one which the CCJ has learned to approach by asking “What’s the nature and authority of the sacred text in our many respective traditions? For me, for you.”

He describes the giving of Torah in this way: “It was an event witnessed for a few moments or minutes by a group of people without any frame of reference to comprehend or express what was happening. They talked about this unimagined and unimaginable event to each other, discussed it, compared notes, doubted it... told their children who told their children and eventually, in the fullness of time, redactors – acting in good faith and with integrity – committed the oral traditions to writing.” But it is not the process from oral to written which he sees as key, rather it is the fact that such a process of revelation is in itself an act of interpretation. “Is the text ‘from God’? Does it point to what is true? Is it ‘authentic’? Yes. But the text itself is still interpretation. Such a ‘post-modern’ view is, for me, both liberating and terrifying, totally characteristic of humanity’s relationship with the Divine. Many of us accept that interpretation is key to our tradition but can we accept that what we are interpreting is in itself interpretation? Have we any other option?”

These are questions from which fundamentalists shrink. When false certainty takes root because of fear of that gracious and loving interaction which respects and nourishes the limitations of the temporal and finite, we not only turn away from the truth, we make its pursuit a stumbling block for a culture which recognises and resents the presumption.

This is at the root of Tony Bayfield's second theme of absolutism and is a call to humility in the face of the Divine: "Isn’t it sheer hubris to suppose that any human being or group could grasp the whole of God’s Truth? Isn’t it absurd to suppose that God would entrust to any one group of people at any one time more than a fragment of the knowledge and experience of the One who cannot be captured and owned and who never ceases to surprise us?i That challenge isn’t just thrown down to the fanatics and deranged ‘out there’; it’s thrown down to all of us.” Indeed it is and we must rise to the challenge if we are to engage with the spiritual nature of humankind.

Among the values of the 'post-modern world' is that of a particular type of materialism which goes beyond consumerism but which obviously feeds that vice. Tony Bayfield describes it as the dominance of our public discourse by economics “to the extent that it’s well-nigh impossible to argue – in a way that will be perceived as grounded and plausible – that there are some situations where values other than those of economics need to take precedence”. He continued “I wonder the extent to which the theory and practice of our own faith institutions has been influenced by the dominance of economic thinking – let alone the extent to which our members are aware that we might offer a critique?” It is a question which disturbs and challenges. Failure to address it can only feed the alienation of those at present outside faith communities who may be less afraid of radical simplicity.

Considering the relationship between religion, society and government as the fourth of his themes, Rabbi Bayfield draws us back to the post-Christendom challenges presented in Alan Race's contribution. “Britain is a country the calendar of which, the rhythm, the landscape, our most important institutions – schools, universities, hospitals – have been deeply and profoundly influenced by Christianity. In that sense this is a Christian country and long may it remain so.” But, he says, despite the continuing appearance of Establishment, “it has been largely disempowered, a difficult, drawn-out and challenging experience the consequences of which are still very much felt and from which Jews, Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs have much to learn in working out our relationship to ‘power and powerlessness’in modern, democratic secular states.”

Presenting these challenges to the next generation, he reminded us that “authentic religion can only emerge from a deeper relationship with and greater sensitivity to the other. We have to consider what humility demands and recognise the hubris still riveted to our doctrines and souls.” His conclusion? “We have to think deeply about how we work unempowered by the State amongst the disempowered within the State and, at the same time, how we exercise an authentic influence on society. All of which we can do with far more insight and far better judgement as a result of dialogue.”

Dialogue. Not syncretism nor 'cafeteria religion' – both epithets thrown at interfaith by some still wedded to a smaller vision. If we are so bound within our individual packaging that we cannot find a spirit in common, a cross-fertilisation of wisdoms and insights without fearing faithlessness or heresy, faith communities will have a diminishing role in the evolution of our societies. It is in such a failure that we will truly find ourselves faithless.

------------

© Jill Segger is an Associate Director of Ekklesia with particular involvement in editorial issues. She is a freelance writer who contributes to the Church Times, Catholic Herald, Tribune, Reform and The Friend, among other publications. Jill is an active Quaker. See: http://www.journalistdirectory.com/journalist/TQig/Jill-Segger You can follow Jill on Twitter at: http://www.twitter.co/quakerpen

Younghusband Lecture 2015

Faithful sharing and giving
The recent Parliament of World Religions was a chance to celebrate the global growth of the interfaith movement, but in our dark and dangerous world one cannot help questioning what has been achieved. Many of the same issues were discussed when Sir Francis Younghusband founded the World Congress of Faiths in 1936 – also a time when the clouds of war and hate were growing darker.
Councils of Faiths do a lot to encourage members of different communities to meet, thereby promoting social cohesion. The members of such Councils are usually there to represent and speak for their faith community.
But talk is not enough – increasingly as people of faith get to know each other, they want to work together for the good of their community, and perhaps also for wider goods such as human right or the environment. This is also happening at an international level, for example, The Global Freedom Network is an interfaith movement to combat contemporary slavery.
All such work is vital, but the question that has to be asked is ‘Does religion add anything specifically to such work or is the real basis our common humanity? Is there anything unique about faiths working together?’
I would argue that working together does help to reduce ignorance and prejudice, as it creates spaces and opportunities not only to understand better each other’s beliefs and practices, but also to see the lived faith of the other person expressed through compassion and everyday practice. As we get to know each other better, we realise that we all have the same questions about why there is suffering or what happens when we die.
Fellowship with other people of faith, which WCF offers, widens our sympathy and, despite the daily evidence of holy hatred and human indifference and cruelty, gives us the hope and the energy to go on labouring for a better world.
Moreover and more important, the more people of faith and good will who speak out, the louder the voice and the more people who act, the quicker change will come - as we are seeing, to give just two examples of so many, in the interfaith campaign to bring clean water to all people, or in the struggle to end all forms of slavery.

2015 Parliament of the World’s Religions

Salt Lake City. Oct 15th - 19th

Mormon Tabernacle and city skyline...

Reclaiming the Heart of Our Humanity

Pre –Parliament Event

14th April 2015, Global Co-operation House, London, UK
Organised by the World Congress of Faiths and the Brahma Kumaris UK

REPORT

This pre-parliament event brought the spirit of the Parliament to around 50 people of all faiths.

In her welcome Sister Jayanti, European Director of the Brahma Kumaris, remembered how her first exposure to the issue of climate change was at the 1993 Parliament in Chicago, not realizing that years later this would become the major issue of our times with still very few people willing to do anything about it! She talked of the increasing recognition of the importance of the role of religions in this. She quoted Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change: 'if anything is going to change climate change it has to come from the heart'.

She guided us in a meditation on emerging love, truth and compassion within the heart, so that these qualities keep guiding us in life and our work for humanity.

Rev Dr Marcus Braybrooke, President of the World Congress of Faiths shared greetings from the planning group in Chicago. He went on to share how the reason for bringing the world’s religions and spiritual traditions together is so that we can unlock the spiritual riches and resources we all have for the healing of our world. And this is both spiritual and practical. He shared his aim for the Parliament where a world society is created, that embodies the mystic and interconnectedness and of all things related to the Divine, and he quoted Jane Goodall, anthropologist, that 'the ultimate destiny of our species is a state of Compassion and Love'.

A video was shown of the history of the Parliament from 1893 to the present day which conveyed the wealth of culture, tradition, faith, dialogue and the celebration that took place in Chicago, Capetown, Barcelona and Melbourne.

Mrs Mary Braybrooke, retired social worker and Mr Vinod Kapashi, President of the Mahavir (Jain) Foundation, shared their special memories of the parliaments of how the generous listening and sharings meant that many lasting friendships were made.

Enthusiastic group discussions followed on the following questions:
Reclaiming the Heart of our Humanity: working together for a world of compassion, peace, justice and sustainability:

  • What does this mean to me personally on my life’s journey?
  • How is this theme relevant to the interfaith work that I am engaged in?

Each group was then invited to construct one sentence that would be their message to the Parliament.
In chairing the following discussion, Rev Canon Dr Alan Race, Chair of the World Congress of Faiths noted:

  • not just words are shared, but short term inclusive projects are created to bring the aims into reality
  • neighbourhoods of community in the human world family continue to be developed
  • by drawing together the ancient wisdoms of compassion and respect, a new language of tomorrow can be developed.
  • that we can reclaim a world that we have lost, as well as embark on a journey exploring who we are and where we are going as part of the Parliament process.

Rabbi Jackie Tabick, Co-President of the World Congress of Faiths, closed the evening with a prayer……a time to meet in courage and truth and in this we share the common prayer of humanity....and may our courage match our convictions and our integrity our hope…..

Everyone was asked to write their personal hopes for the Parliament. The most outstanding one was as follows...
A Chance for the world’s people to CONNECT to:

  • Compassionate hearts emerging
  • Openness to all religions
  • Newness in the vision of unity
  • Nurturing a feeling of a world family
  • Engaging in learning about common goals
  • Create friendships
  • Tolerance for all people

webIcon-miniYou can discover the 2015 Parliament event pages in Salt Lake City here.

 

WCF appoints Programme & Development Officer

WCF will celebrate its 80th anniversary in 2016, and we intend to use this as a major opportunity to develop a long term programme for ensuring that our organisation continues to play an important role in interfaith relations, and to raise its profile more widely.

We have appointed Jenny Kartupelis into the new post of Programme and Development Officer, to work with the Committee, members and Administrator in developing the interests and commitments of WCF with faith communities, existing inter faith organisations and the scholarly community, and to help shape its future direction in strategic and practical ways.

Jenny was the Director of the East of England Faiths Council for 11 years, an organisation she helped to establish, and which grew out of the East of England Churches Network. The Council's main roles were to support local interfaith in the region, act as a representative and advocate for faith in society, and interact with local and national government. In 2010, she was awarded the MBE for services to interfaith relations.

Jenny's professional background is in public relations and research, and she is studying for a Professional Doctorate in multi faith policy with the Cambridge Theological Federation, in which city she is based. Her current work includes undertaking a 'faith audit' of Greater Peterborough, commissioned by the Local Authority.