March 13 2022
Vigil for Ukraine
Thank you to all those who came to the Peace Garden, especially the faith leaders and dignitaries who came at such short notice to speak or sing and give their faith perspective on the situation in Ukraine just now. Many spoke very movingly. Enoch Kangaraj and Yogesh Joshi facilitated the gathering very beautifully. The speeches were very moving, and Aga Dychton’s especially as she has relatives in Ukraine now. She said she was heartbroken at their situation. She had kindly brought some hearts the Polish children had made which decorated the seating round the labyrinth, and other decorations in Ukraine colours.
Thanks especially to faith leaders and other speakers Imam Shazeb Athar, Azhar Abedi, Jehangir Sarosh, Rabbi Mordechai Chalk, Teereth Kaur, Taran Singh, Amee Verani, Ruhi Yousefian, Michael Dragoyevich, Nilanjana Paul, and John Fagbohunhbe, as well as others. Dignitaries who came were Deputy Lieutenant of Hertfordshire Vice Admiral Alan Richard, who represented the Queen, leader of Herts County Council Cllr Richard Roberts, Dean Russell, MP, Archdeacon Jane Mainwaring, Cllr Asif Khan. and of course Mayor Peter Taylor, who is WIFA’s patron.
November 14 2021 Remembrance Sunday
WIFA representatives laid a wreath at the Peace Memorial near the town hall as part of the civic ceremony of remembrance.
October 17 2021
The Week of Prayer for World Peace planting and prayers in the Peace Garden went very well on Sunday. People of several faiths attended: among them representatives of Sikhism, Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Baha’i faith, Unificationist and others. Some donations of plants and bulbs were planted ready to blossom forth next spring and summer, and prayers and inspiring words were spoken as all gathered round on the labyrinth. Many thanks to those who came and contributed in any way, in planting and offering prayers for world peace.
Watford Interfaith Association Annual General Meeting
7.30 pm Tuesday 23rd February 2020 on Zoom
This year’s AGM was a little different to usual, partly because we were still unable to meet safely in person, and partly because our Constitution had come under revision and needed to be accepted by the membership. This formal business, along with the essential reports did not take too long.
Our guest speaker, Anthony Curran, who is interfaith chaplain for Watford Hospital spoke about how he came to be a hospital chaplain and about the insights he has gained as a result.
MP Dean Russell and Elected Mayor Peter Taylor, Patron of WIFA, were also be present.
The AGM is the time when we renew membership and we are delighted at how many people have paid a membership subscription this year – thank you for your support.
We also also elected several new people to the executive committee. People with enthusiasm for interfaith activity and with new ideas. Welcome.
Week of Prayer for World Peace
Zoom gathering Sunday 18 October 2020
Thank you so much to all those who attended our Week of Prayer for World Peace event this afternoon, it went very well indeed, thanks to Harjit’s expert chairing! Thanks very much Harjit, I realised you had thanked everyone so warmly for all they do, and there was no-one to thank you! Thank you for all you do, we know you do so many, many things in the community, especially connected with WIFA, of which you have been a member longer than I have, and Watford Celebration and in your work with the fire service, but especially you serve with One Vision at Stanborough Park, and have held office at the gurdwara too: so, many thanks indeed.
Thanks also to Jeff and Raemonn Bateman for hosting the event, and for showing the Peace Garden video that was part of this year’s Watford Celebration, which Raemonn put together and showed today. You too do much in the community, apart from leading the Peace Garden team and having once been chair of WIFA and many other things.
Many thanks also to Yogesh Joshi, for his contribution in sounding the Sanskrit prayer and leading the International Prayer for Peace. Yogesh, also an ex chair of WIFA, does much in the community, especially in the Watford Indian Association and in facilitating the Sacred Space at Watford Celebration. Being a front line worker, Yogesh has continued to go to work throughout the pandemic, and still he does all these things.
We were especially privileged to have Elected Mayor Peter Taylor attending and also Watford MP Dean Russell, who both kindly offered inspiring words of encouragement which I know will have meant a lot to people, so thank you very much indeed.
And thanks very much to everyone for coming and contributing prayers and thoughts and inspirations for us all, and who also contributed by listening.
If anyone does want to donate in any way to the Peace Garden, with plants or bulbs or in any other way, the team will be there on Wednesday from 10 00am- 11.30 am. because of the numbers we are allowed we should be grateful to know who is coming in advance, so please let me know, and I can give you a time slot. Please bring your own gloves if intending to plant, and a face mask if you wish (I don’t think it is necessary in the open air). We have sanitisers and other PPE if needed.
But most of all, many thanks to all who came and made it such an inspiring afternoon.
Sacred Space at Watford Celebration 2020
This year Watford Celebration and WIFA’s Sacred Space Discussion were all online.
The presentations and discussion on the topic ‘How can our faith and thinking get us through difficult situations?’ were very interesting and can be viewed by clicking this link:
Our speakers were:
Christian Church of England, Revd Tony Rindl
Christian Science, Jenny Pearson
Humanist, Alexander Williams
Jain, Ashwin Mehta
Krishna Consciousness, Radha Mohan das
Jewish, Rabbi Mordecai Chalk
Sunni Muslim, Imran Khan
Unificationist. Jeff Bateman
Many thanks to them and to our facilitator Yogesh Joshi and our Zoom host Geoff Calvert.
WIFA’s 2020 AGM was very successful and the welcome we received at the Peace Hospice was very warm. Many commented on the nice atmosphere that was there.
Harjit Singh, WIFA’s Chair commented that 43 years ago when WIFA began, it was very forward thinking, but now it is much more than a discussion group, it is very active with something happening every month,
With the pilgrimage, Faith Leaders’ Forum, Harold Meyer Memorial lecture, Week of Prayer for World Peace, the Herts Interfaith Forum, Peace Garden and contribution to Watford Celebration, interfaith football tournament and so on, there is much happening. But where to next? Plainly young people need to step up and really energise things, which is why Connect has been set up with three schools initially, Watford Boys’, Watford Girls’ and Parmiters.
Francoise Murphy, Treasurer, said funding had been much boosted with help from councillors’ locality budgets and ex Mayor Dorothy Thornhill’s Christmas card fund in 2016, for which WIFA is very grateful. The Peace Garden has been quite costly, though many plants have been donated over time. WIFA’s income is £250- £300 per annum, from subscriptions and donations.She showed a power point presentation of WIFA’s activities.
Judith Bruni, general secretary concentrated on the progress made by WIFA, by all the activities mentioned above, and by organising vigils such as last year’s Christchurch and Sri Lanka vigils in the Peace Garden and thanked the committee, especially Francoise and Harjit for all their work.
Charlotte Richardson, the In Memory and Legacy Fundraising Manager of the hospice showed a power point presentation about the work of the hospice, which has been in existence for 29 years. They offer free specialist care during life limiting illness, by sessions at the hospice or by going into homes. Counselling is offered and they are available 24 hours a day.
Nikki from the Community Security Trust spoke about this security group which gives counter-terrorism talks and advises places of worship on their safety all over the country, which started as a Jewish protection but has had to expand to other faith communities.
Mayor Peter Taylor also spoke about the environment and having a duty to hand it on to the next generation, how faiths can help with mental illness, how young people can embrace diversity, and how faith can help to calm anger in the community, and government, and bring down hate crime figures.
Some of us have enjoyed a wonderful visit to Bhaktivedanta Manor followed by lunch, and the weather was kind too!
Many thanks to Radha Mohan das who looked after us all day, and to Chanda Shome who organised the trip.We saw darshan in the temple hall, with the gods in their beautiful array at the altar, learnt about the musical instruments that are used, tabla, harmonium etc. and saw ladies making garlands: we saw the rooms where Srila Prabhupada used to live, the new greenhouses, the construction of the new haveli, and the dairy where the cows and calves were resting.
We had a video describing the way the temple works, philosophical discussions and a lovely lunch. All in all it was a very good, educative and entertaining visit. Radha Mohan das sent these photos too.
22 March 2019
Interfaith Prayer Vigil for New Zealand
A participant commented:
‘We gathered in the Peace Garden to remember those who had died in Christchurch, and at other times and places. An amazing number of people came. There was a beautiful sense of unity.’
‘People just kept coming! It was incredible!’
Elected Mayor Peter Taylor said:
‘It was a privilege to join faith leaders from across Watford, and those of no faith at all, at an Interfaith vigil this morning for the victims of the horrifying events in Christchurch last week.
I’m proud to be a Mayor of such a tolerant and diverse town. We are stronger when we stand together than when we stand apart.’
Geoffrey Calvert, chair of the WIFA committee, welcomed everyone to the meeting and invited us all to say the International Prayer for Peace together to open the meeting. In his report he explained that he would be standing down as chair as from this meeting. He reminded us that interfaith activity is something that we do together and encouraged everyone to join in, reminding us that interfaith activity strengthens rather than weakens one’s existing faith. We can all help by maintaining, developing and using the peace garden, by participating in World Day of Prayer and in ‘Sacred Space’ at Celebration and joining the WIFA committee. Geoff was presented with a small gift in recognition of all his work as chair.
We also heard reports from the treasurer and secretary and elected the committee.
Formal business having been satisfactorily, and speedily, accomplished it was time to hear from our guest speakers.
Remembrance Day 2018
Jeff Bateman and Sharifa Choudrey laid a wreath at Watford’s Peace Memorial on behalf of WIFA
Harold Meyer Memorial Lecture 2018
Dame Helen Hyde spoke about her work with refugees and with women in Rwanda
Some of the people who attended last night’s brilliant lecture from Dame Helen Hyde.
At least 13 faith groups were represented.
Thanks to all those who came,and those who helped.
It was a truly inspirational evening.
Dame Helen Hyde holds up a blanket she made which is similar to those she teaches the women of the Rwandan Sisterhood Association to make. Most of them have never owned a new item in their lives. Photo from Teereth Kaur.
Week of Prayer for World Peace
Peace Garden Opening
WIFA’s 2018 AGM
The business part of the meeting went smoothly. We heard about the events WIFA that had organised in the past year, future plans, our currently secure financial situation and major progress with the peace garden project. The committee was re-elected, plus one new member, to continue the good work. Numbers attending were a little lower that usual, probably due to the slightly late notice and the bitterly cold weather. Those who didn’t make it missed a very warm welcome at the Multi-Cultural Community Centre and a fascinating talk from Tony Rindl, co-founder, with Helen Hyde, of the local charity Refugees to Recovery. Our patron, elected Mayor Dorothy Thornhill, spoke of how much goodness there is in our town and how much the faith groups contribute, emphasising the importance of all our relationships with each other because that avoids divisions between us. She concluded by challenging us all to ‘turn up the volume’ and, next year, to each ‘bring a friend’ to the AGM. A splendid array of refreshments complemented the opportunity to get to know one another better before we made our way home.
Watford Interfaith Association’s contribution to this week was to organise an Interfaith Pilgrimage in Watford Town Centre, calling at 5 places of worship. Starting at 12.45pm at the Watford & District Synagogue, the pilgrims were welcomed with warm drinks and delicious kosher cakes before the Rabbi’s sons gave a presentation. The pilgrimage also visited the Watford Velmurugan Temple for the first time, the Watford Central Mosque and Holy Rood Roman Catholic Churchand ended at 5pm at the Gurdwara, the Sikh Temple where refreshments were served.
Pictures of the pilgrmage are on our ‘Interfaith Pilgrimages’ page.
Mayor’s charity Christmas card makes world of difference to
Watford Interfaith Association
Front row, left to right: Judith Bruni (WIFA), Father Geoff Calvert (chair of WIFA), Mayor Dorothy Thornhill, Harjit Singh (WIFA), Francoise Murphy (WIFA).
Back row, left to right: Owrang Moshtael, (WIFA), Jeff Bateman (WIFA), Yogesh Joshi (WIFA)
Every year the elected Mayor of Watford, Dorothy Thornhill, sends out a Christmas card, sponsored by local firms. Every year the money collected goes to the Mayor’s chosen charity. This year the Watford Interfaith Association – with an annual budget usually running at around six-hundred pounds – has received £3,800.
Chairman of WIFA, Father Geoff Calvert, said “This money will really change what we can offer Watford in 2017 – our fortieth anniversary year. Last year we couldn’t afford to put on our memorial lecture, because we couldn’t hire a venue. Now we will be able to share ideas with people of all faiths and of none. Plus we’re putting the final touches to our labyrinth in the Peace Garden in Cassiobury Park – which will also be funded by this generous gift.”
Dorothy said “I’m really touched by the generosity of the firms who support my Christmas card – thank you Warner Brothers, West Herts Golf Club. Sigma Pharmaceuticals, Everyone Active, the Intu centre, The Prince of Bengal and WH Humphreys and Son. Your kindness means the Watford Interfaith Association can continue its important work – on projects like the Interfaith Pilgrimage and Sacred Space – well into the future.”
This year’s card shows a photograph from 1953 of the bandstand in the snow – it remains to be seen whether that will be replicated in 2016, with the bandstand freshly renovated thanks to a Heritage Lottery/Big Lottery grant, and back in its original position in Cassiobury Park.
The business of the AGM was fairly quickly accomplished. It’s good to have 13 people elected to the executive committee, we look forward to working with the new members.
Our speaker DC100 Emma Maxwell’s talk about police counter-terrorism work in Hertfordshire was very illuminating, and somewhat shocking! She gave a good overview of the work and didn’t avoid the difficult issues.
She kindly answered questions that arose, ably assisted by Pat Davey.
Among her points was that PREVENT is non-criminal, that it is about supporting and protecting, that it is not against radical thinking but wants to avoid radical thinking becoming violent action.
Our chairperson for the meeting observed that as a young man, dropping a good career path and joining a new religious movement was viewed as radical thinking and action. But it did not lead him to violent action, among other things it led him to interfaith work.
Councillor Linda Topping also spoke to us very briefly. She emphasised that communication is vital and that we can all learn more from listening to one another than just keeping talking. She urged us all to consider standing in the upcoming local election, whatever party we may choose to stand for, so that the council represents the community it serves.
After this there was a lot of socialising, which was very good to see and be part of. And the refreshments were clearly much appreciated.
Here are some reports of recent WIFA events
Interfaith Pilgrimage 2015
More pictures on our Interfaith Pilgrimage page
2 minutes silence at the bandstand to remember those who suffer from terrorism
Our elected Mayor Dorothy Thornhill reminded us that Watford is a moderate and modest town and said that this silence together, incorporated into our already planned interfaith pilgrimage, was a very appropriate response to recent events.
We stood together in silence, between us representing the community of Watford.
Our guest speaker, Bonnie Evans-Hills, who encouraged us all to think about what we can offer young people to provide them with hope and show them that they can be heroes in positive ways.
Displays of WIFA’s work and recent activities.
Chair of Watford Council, George Derbyshire, summing up the evening’s proceedings.
BISHOP’S CUP INTERFAITH CRICKET TOURNAMENT, Sunday 3rd August, Watford Town Cricket Club at Woodside Leisure Centre,
Due to Watford’s great success in winning the tournament between Bedford, Luton, St Albans and Watford in 2013 we are hosted the event this year. The idea is to have people of at least three different faiths in each team, they must be over 15 and can be male or female. It’s free and all are welcome.
Congratulations to Watford’s team on winning again. Look out for news of next year’s tournament, to be held in Watford again.
Watford Interfaith Pilgrimage 2013
Another great success!
This was the fifth year that Watford Interfaith Association had organised a pilgrimage around Watford on the occasion of National Interfaith week. Year after year, we have seen a great development in the relations between the faiths in Watford. The hospitality and openness of the various places we visit has increased greatly since the first year we started the pilgrimage. The turnout this year was also at its highest. We counted over 85 participants from various faiths, old and young even small children and 2 brave souls on crutches! The Pilgrimage visited 5 places of worship around Watford: a Synagogue, a Parish Church, a Mosque, a Catholic Church and a Gurdwara. Watford is a small town making it possible for us to walk to all those places of worship in one afternoon. The Head of the Council spoke at the start of the pilgrimage and stayed with us the whole time. The Watford Fire fighters, as part of their community project, also participated and some of them followed us with their fire engine. The Pilgrimage was mentioned in the local newspaper, the Watford Observer..
To view the pictures of the Pilgrimage taken by Christophe Murphy follow the link: