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Archive for December, 2014

Hi.  I am Laurence Hillel, Willesden Area Inter Faith Adviser and I would like to share with you something which might be a model for training, being ambassadors for Christ, and for meeting our neighbours across faith boundaries

Chris is curate at St Gabriel’s, Cricklewood.  Chris rang me up to organise a meeting and a walk around his Parish to learn something about the other faith institutions in his area.  For both of us this was a chance to learn from each other exchanging information about what is the current inter faith scene in Cricklewood & Willesden Green.

We met on a cold dank day early in December.  We set off from St Gabriel’s towards Cricklewood Broadway.  I filled him in about a Mitzvah day event I had attended recently at the Cricklewood Mosque on Chichele road, organised by a Jewish group in cooperation with a Muslim organisation in Willesden, Rumi’s Kitchen.  Rumi’s Kitchen fortnightly provide a meal for the homeless open to all. Now they were joined by volunteers from the local synagogue and some members of St Anne’s and St Andrew’s.   This was an impressive example of inter faith cooperation in helping out the needy of the area.

We walked passed another mosque in Anson Road, and I explained what I knew about the differences in the membership and beliefs of the various mosques in Willesden.  Innis Bowen, in her recent book on British Islam, has identified eight different groupings within Islam each with their own beliefs and practices; several of them have mosques or community centres in Willesden.  Meanwhile Chris mentioned the old synagogue next to St Gabriel’s which had been recently acquired by a Muslim group.  This led us into a conversation about the declining presence of Jewish adherents in Brent.

We reached Cricklewood Broadway.  Both of us had been aware of the presence of a Muslim bookshop on the Broadway, but knew nothing about it.  Spontaneously we decided to pay a visit.  The fact that we were two made us feel that much braver (I am reminded of Luke 10.1, the Lord appointed seventy and sent them ahead of him in pairs…”)

We went in to a small lobby where there were a few adult men of different ethnic background talking or looking at the items for sale.  A… came and asked us what we wanted in a slightly defensive manner; but as we explained who we were and our purpose; that we were just visiting to make ourselves known and to say hello, we found the defensiveness transformed into a warmth of welcome and hospitality.  We were invited into the prayer room at the back and all our questions about the background to the institution and who used it were answered.  The Imam wasn’t present when we arrived, but later came into the shop and greeted Chris “Hello neighbour!”  They lived two doors apart, and had always exchanged greetings, but the opportunity to converse had never presented itself until now. What was most encouraging was the work being done by the bookshop to divert young people from radicalisation.  There were numerous leaflets to take away on such themes as “Why Isis is wrong”.

We left burdened with gifts of dates, and full of information; we had discovered friends and in the process learnt a lot about not just this place, but all the surrounding mosques as well!   Later Chris shared with me a bit about his own story and interest in interfaith.  We left with a sense of shared experience and shared discovery and were richer for it.

If you are interested in a paired walk contact Laurence at laurence.hillel@londoninterfaith.org.uk

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