Report on ‘Not in God’s name’ conference 2016

Report: Not in God’s name conference

Devon Faith and Belief Forum is pleased to report that the ‘Not in God’s name’ Interfaith conference held at the Mint, Exeter on Saturday 5th November was a big success. Over 60 people from diverse communities and traditions participated in a stimulating range of workshops and activities.

Steve Shepherd gave a powerful presentation, giving a unique insight into the way groups like IS are able to manipulate young people through the internet. Jonathan Marshall talked about the need for schools to help young people to develop greater resilience through supporting their emotional needs and enabling a sense of belonging. Sushma Sahajpal engaged participants in group work, helping them to consider what it means to embrace the sacred. Anna Roderick and Milly Pawson talked about the need to welcome refugees, not demonise them. Anna outlined the work being done by ABIDE in Ottery St Mary, where the group is preparing to apply to the Home Office to offer to house Syrian refugees. Jude Taylorson created a calm place of reflection through her mindfulness workshop.

In the final plenary session, spokespersons from the Hindu, Baha’i, Muslim, Christian Orthodox and Pagan communities gave their views on #livingwelltogether. We need to learn to challenge the language of separation, them and us, developing a more inclusive vocabulary.

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Report on DEFAN by the Sea October 2016

DEFAN at the Sea

Nourishment of the imagination and inspiration for action – two ways of describing the multi-faith event at Westward Ho!, north Devon on 22nd October. Nearly 30 of us from different faith and belief traditions met at the Devon Earth and Faith Network (DEFAN) conference to look at Water – and our human relationship with it today.

In opening, church environment officer Martyn Goss referred to the challenges we face of Climate Change and the hydrological cycle, sea and water pollution, poor management of water supplies and the commercialisation of a natural resource – considered as a human right, as well as having benefit for the whole Earth.

Bideford Quaker Jacqui Poole spoke about the wisdom and motivation for the Society of Friends’ actions on sustainability, including living more lightly on the planet and looking for more equitable means of securing water justice for all.

Local muslim Hamzah Saied movingly encouraged us to listen to the sounds of breaking waves and to discover some of the deeper meanings evoked for us. He also encouraged us to recognise the importance of gratitude and humility for the intrinsic value that water has and which should never be taken for granted.

Participants were encouraged to bring a small bottle of water from their home areas – from taps, water butts, streams, etc. and to pour these into a pot as an act of hope and solidarity with one another, before the collected water was later returned to the sea in an act of sensitive integrity.

Jenni Braund is a local poet brought up in the area and she read some of her engaging poetry about water and the sea, following an ‘awareness walk’ when we gently and reflectively explored the nearby beach, rocks, sand, pools and waves.

The Editor of Resurgence and Ecologist magazine, Greg Neale, also lives locally and he took us through the significance of whales and our relation with these ultimate water creatures. From early awe and wonder in many religious stories, humans later evolved to see these massive mammals rather as sources of provision – meat, oil, skin, etc. Yet we have hunted them almost to extinction only to discover that they are perhaps the closest to human life in intelligence and communications.

So is our past wanton destruction of them a parable about how we really treat ourselves – as mere consumerism fodder and not the advanced part of nature that we really are, and with all the responsibility which that carries.?

From a quiet Hindu perspective, Sandhya Dave helped us to conclude our sharing by holding the pebbles we had collected on our ‘pilgrimage’, and to see these as reminders of the day and to recollect the significance water has for the whole planet and all life.

This poem by Pablo Neruda was read by Richard Dealler to sum up the event:

Everything on the earth bristled, the bramble
pricked and the green thread
nibbled away, the petal fell, falling
until the only flower was the falling itself.
Water is another matter,
has no direction but its own bright grace,
runs through all imaginable colours,
takes limpid lessons
from stone,
and in those functionings plays out
the unrealized ambitions of the foam. 

The day was one of a series of ‘Earth Matters, Faith Matters’ activities organised by Devon Churches Green Action http://www.dcga.org.uk/ and the Devon Faith and Belief Forum http://devonfaiths.org.uk/

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Report on Inter Faith Week 2015

Inter Faith Week took place in 2015 over the period 15-22 November. As well as the ‘Teaching British Values?’ conference on 14 November, DFBF held or attended several further events.

‘Faith and Belief Speaker Training’

The first group’s training was completed in a final session held on Saturday 21 November 2015 at the Exeter Community Centre, St David’s Hill.

The aim of the programme was to improve the quality of faith speakers being sent into schools, colleges and community settings, in the hope that in time there might be a bank of DFBF trained people these bodies might confidently call upon to provide this important service.

After two previous Saturdays of training in October, trainees arrived for their final session in inter-faith week having just, for the most part, undertaken a classroom placement to put into practice what they had been learning so far.

The programme began with an introduction to the education context, followed in week two by a session on presentation skills. Participants attending came from a wide range of faith and belief backgrounds, including Buddhist, Bahá’i, Christian, Hindu, Jewish and Muslim.

Those taking part travelled from across Devon, and plans are well advanced to provide the next series of workshops in March 2016.

Exchange-visitsExchange Visits to Exeter Mosque and Cathedral

Dean Jonathan Draper visited Exeter Mosque on Tuesday 17 November where, after attending Midday prayers, he spoke to a significant gathering of Muslims in the Mosque’s community room. His words were well received and were followed by a Questions and Answers session.

Two days later, on Thursday 19 November, Imam Mohammed Abrar visited the Cathedral where he attended Evensong. Afterwards he addressed an open Cathedral meeting in the Sacristy where around forty people heard him speak. Both conversations were particularly pertinent given the terrorist attacks in Paris the previous Friday.

Bishop Sarah Mullally also visited the Mosque on the Thursday, the Imam having arranged for a number of Muslim women to meet her along with himself. This was visit was covered by ITV.

In the course of the evening the Dean and Imam held a private conversation, recorded for transmission by BBC Radio Devon on the Sunday morning!

ParisPeace Walk and Vigil

Also on the Thursday evening, around 200 people progressed from Exeter Civic Centre to the Cathedral to express a desire for peace in the wake of the events in Paris the previous Friday. This attracted BBC coverage.

Other Inter-Faith Week Events

A College teaching session in Exmouth, and a Parish over-dinner talk focusing on Islam in the Escot, Feniton and Payhembury group of churches also took place in the week.

Report on ‘Teaching British Values?’ conference

Teaching-British-Values-2DFBF held the conference ‘Teaching British Values? Faith and Belief Perspectives’ on Saturday 14 November 2015 at The Mint Methodist Church Centre, Exeter, just before the start of Inter Faith Week 2015.

More than 60 people with an interest in Education, including many school governors from across Devon, met for a morning on British Values. With the duty placed on schools to ‘promote British Values’ this proved an engaging and lively morning.

The day began with everyone observing silence for the victims of the previous night’s Paris attacks, an event which gave an added contextual resonance to what followed.

Jeremy Roberts then chaired an open presentation and debate led by Jonathan Marshall and John Hall which all too quickly had to come to a close as participants then entered workshops. The Governor’s grouped of around 20 people took the form of a ‘Workshop to Raise Awareness of Prevent’ (WRAP) training session led by Jonathan Marshall. The Devon Inter-Faith Forum for Youth (DIFFY) with Bev Smerdon held a workshop led by young people; and, Ian Jamieson led a third workshop on ‘How to explore British Values from a faiths perspective.’ Ed Pawson ran a fourth workshop with a faith representatives panel which had contributions from a range of different faith voices.

The conference provided a valuable opportunity to grasp with a challenging contemporary education issue, and various display tables and resource materials were made available to add yet further value to the day.

A vote of thanks was given to DFBF and especially its Chair Jude Taylorson and her working group for organising the conference. Given the support and enthusiasm shown for the day, the DFBF are now actively considering what now needs to be done to follow up this most successful day.

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DFBF Annual Report 2014-15

AGMOn 9 July, DFBF held its 2015 AGM at County Hall, Exeter. The AGM considered the Annual Report 2014-15, which includes an overview of the year and updates on DFBF’s three projects: DIFFY, Faith Speakers, and DEFAN.

Download the Annual Report 2014-15 (pdf; 3Mb).

 

JutindharoThe guest speaker at the AGM was Ajahn Jutindharo, on “Buddhism, Understanding and Living in the Modern Age”. Ajahn Jutindharo grew up in Leeds. He studied physics at university, and then worked for several years in medical research whilst writing a PhD. At university he became interested in meditation and Buddhism, which culminated in a decision to join a Buddhist monastic order in 1987. His monastic life has been spent primarily in England, with short periods in Asia. Since 2007 he has been the senior incumbent at the Hartridge Monastery in Devon.