Recent events

Sacred Space at Celebration
WIFA hosts the ‘Sacred Space’ at Watford’s annual ‘Celebration’
creating a space where a topic of interest is discussed by members of faith communities
and an opportunity is offered for faith groups to share something from their practice.
In 2019 the discussion topic was:
‘How can faiths heal the cycle of hate?’
There was good and respectful listening and sharing in the packed choir vestry.
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Gathering for Sri Lanka
27 April 2019
The gathering in the Peace Garden was very well attended considering the bitterly cold wind. People really appreciated the opportunity to come together to share their sorrow and condolences and just pray together in their own ways.
We were very honoured to have the presence of the High Commissioner for Sri Lanka’s representative to come and speak of his heartfelt sorrow, and to read some of her words.
Many thanks to MP Richard Harrington and elected mayor Peter Taylor for coming and also those who shared thoughts and prayers: Sri Mohan from the Velmurugan Temple, Revd Neville Dyckhoff from Holy Rood Catholic Church, Revd Tim Roberts from Christians Across Watford, Dr Shanta Tuladhar, representing Buddhism, Zahid Zarin who spoke for Muslims, Fr Geoff who read words from Rabbi Levine at the Synagogue, PC Pat Davey and the pastor from the Seventh Day Adventist Church. A special treat was hearing the North Watford Choir perform an impromptu rendering of a peace song, peace, shalom, salaam which ended the meeting on a high.
Message from Watford Interfaith Association:
*We wish to offer our deep condolences to all those who have been killed, maimed and affected in Sri Lanka. With the events of Christchurch still fresh in our minds, this tragic sequence of events must reinforce the love we hold for humanity*.
The 30 minutes of terror left almost 300 dead at the time of writing, and hundreds injured. Three churches and three hotels were attacked, with a further two blasts at a guesthouse, plus another one today. These targeted attacks can only be seen as evil in every sense.
This senseless massacre of innocent people is not a hallmark that any faith prescribes, especially at this most holy time for all our fellow Christian brothers and sisters who are celebrating Easter.
The world we will live in is bound by love not hate, so to those who wish to bring hate and fear we as faiths in Watford are united and stand strong against whatever adversity we face now or in the future.
The direction we must follow is very clear, that the veil of hatred must be discarded at all costs. Once again we must turn our thoughts and prayers to all those who have been affected and the loved ones that have been left behind.
Harjit Singh
Chair of WIFA
On behalf of Watford Interfaith Association
22nd April, 2019

22 March 2019

Interfaith Prayer Vigil for New Zealand

Very many thanks to those of you who came to the Peace Garden yesterday in memory of those who lost their lives or were injured or bereaved in the events in Christchurch, New Zealand exactly a week before. It was very short notice and of course many could not come because of prior commitments. It was thus astonishing to see how many did come, including boys from Watford Boys’ Grammar School, they seemed to keep coming without pause! We reckoned over a hundred were there, with more than thirteen faiths represented, as well as the presence of the Elected Mayor Peter Taylor, Chair of Watford Council Rabi Martins, Chief Inspector Matt Phillips and other officers, fire crews and some councillors.
The newly appointed Chair of WIFA, Harjit Singh led the proceedings by the decorated arch into the Peace Garden, assisted by Zahid Zarin. Mayor Peter Taylor led a minute’s silence and mentioned WIFA’s work in encouraging all the communities to work together, followed by the call to prayer from a member of the Sunni mosque, and a recitation from the Q’ran. Each speaker lit a candle, and there followed offerings from the Chief Inspector who promised the police would do everything to ensure Watford is safe: the leader of the council condemned the atrocities, and  representatives of Catholic, Jain, Muslim Zoroastrian, Jewish, Ahmadiyya Muslim, Christians Across Watford, Sikh, and Velmurugan Temple spoke, many of them of love conquering hate and with the suggestion from one of everyone hugging the person next to them, which people did, with many smiles.

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!’

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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.’

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AGM 2019

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.

Chief Inspector Matt Phillips spoke about youth and violent crime. His talk was most interesting. Although the statistics are alarming, and Watford falls prey to youngsters coming out to Watford from London after college to commit crimes, the police are dealing with the situation very imaginatively, and are also dealing with whole families rather than individuals when needed. Recruiting is also taking place so that in time there will be more ‘bobbies on the beat’.

After the talks there was time for refreshments and conversation.

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

Planting for the Week of Prayer for World Peace went ahead on Sunday 14 October, despite the weather. Two donated fig trees,a eucalyptus and a Japanese maple were planted, all of them donated. It rained too hard to stand around too long, but Mayor Peter Taylor came along, and two members of Hertfordshire Fire and Rescue. Other donated plants will be gladly planted on Wednesday providing it is not too wet. Thanks also to Mrs Chaudry for the warming samosas and pakoras.
Thanks so much to those who came in such inclement weather and stayed to say prayers for world peace on the labyrinth, and who brought the lovely food and plants.

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Peace Garden Opening

On 29 March 2018 we gathered for the formal opening of the garden. Elected Mayor Dorothy Thornhill cut the ribbon and then we all assembled in the labyrinth. People from many different faiths offered prayers for peace from their own traditions, helping to create the right ambience for the garden.

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.

 

National Interfaith Week

12-19 November 2017

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.

Remembrance Day 2017
WIFA laid a wreath at the Peace Memorial in the civic ceremony outside the Town Hall along with many other groups representing the people of Watford.
40th Birthday Celebrations
9 July 2017
Greeting people as they arrived
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Our current chair opens the celebrations with a formal welcome and an account of those who have served WIFA before
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Franςoise presented a potted history of WIFA
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Our patron and elected mayor Dorothy Thornhill spoke about the importance of interfaith work in the community
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Then our guest speaker Harriet Crabtree helped put our local interfaith work in a national context and highlighted a few of the factors that helped WIFA to be a successful interfaith group such as keeping attending meetings even when things seem difficult; having a good website and social media presence; working in quiet ways like constructing a peace garden.
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She also encouraged us to look to the future and think about the Watford we’d like to see in 10, 20, even 40 years time – then work towards that vision.
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In a water ceremony a representative of every faith present poured a glass of water into one bowl to represent our essential unity.
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Then it was time for the party food …
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… and plenty of conversation.
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There was cake too … pictures to follow …

Mayor’s charity Christmas card makes world of difference to

Watford Interfaith Association

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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)

Click on picture to enlarge

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.


Week of Prayer for World Peace Gathering
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Lovely evening on Sunday 23 October 2016 for the Week of Prayer for World Peace. Prayers, readings and stories from at least 5 different faiths and candles lit. Then conversation over refreshments, including Sharifa’s amazing samosas.
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Sunday April 24’s Abrahamic Reunion meeting was a huge success…it was a shame it had to be at such short notice as some already had other plans, but the speakers had such interesting things to say about the problems in the Holy Land and how they set about solving them, and they are often in great danger. It was truly inspiring to hear about the work they do. We shall put an item about the talks given by Sheikh Ghassan Manrasa and Revd Dr Anna Less, in the next WIFA newsletter.
Revd Tony Rindl, vicar of St Mary’s offered us the venue  in the church centre at St Mary’s,because he was so inspired by the work Abrahamic Reunion do. WIFA worked hard with Mike and Amanda Kenton to bring the meeting about (they are the UK organisers for the group). Many thanks to Francoise who as usual was backing it all up and managing the catering, to Lateef Hussaini and to Fr Geoff, our Chair, who spoke and held the flag for WIFA’s work. Thanks to all those also who advertised the event in their congregations, and who turned out to support the evening.
Abrahamic Reunion plan to come to the UK in October, with different speakers, so there will be another opportunity to hear about their work. They started to travel round and promote the work they are doing after the atrocities in Paris.

AGM 16/2/16

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.

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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.

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She kindly answered questions that arose, ably assisted by Pat Davey.

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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.

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Here are some reports of recent WIFA events

Interfaith Pilgrimage 2015

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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.

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AGM 17/2/15

Some pictures:

Bonnie Evans-Hills

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.

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Displays of WIFA’s work and recent activities.

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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!

pilgrimage 2013bClick on image to enlarge

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..

Françoise Murphy
WIFA Treasurer

To view the pictures of the Pilgrimage taken by Christophe Murphy follow the link:
https://secure.flickr.com/photos/chrisboff/sets/72157637837107173/

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