Roaring success at HG Wells

Baroness Warsi and Bishop Andrew Watson were the two guests of honour, speaking on “Valuing Culture and Faith - the challenges of integrating into our society whilst retaining our identity”.

The event was organised by Woking People of Faith and took place in the HG Wells Centre on Wednesday, 18th November in front of 200 guests from the Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, Jewish and Baha’i Faiths.

Bishop Andrew Watson of Guildford, formerly Bishop of Aston from 2008, spoke first of how he was fortunate to be at a meeting in December 2013 where Rev Jesse Jackson was a guest of honour, when news came of Nelson Mandela’s death and Rev Jackson led prayers for him. Bishop Watson felt he was in the right place at the right time where a rainbow congregation were with one of the most celebrated veterans of the Martin Luther King marches, praying, together, for the great statesmen and world leader.

The Bishop spoke of the need to feel confident in one’s own faith and that Christians had become frightened of saying what they believe in case they offend others, whereas other religions see this as Christians not believing in anything. He offered a ‘roots down, walls down’ model for positive dialogue and engagement which affirms openness to others, to learning and  to adventure from the basis of strong roots in one’s own faith. He asserted that this ‘Roots down, Walls down’ engagement with people of other faiths and cultures often makes one stronger and less defensive in your own faith tradition.

Baroness Sayeeda Warsi – lawyer, businesswoman, and the first Muslim to serve in a British cabinet – speaking of the British Islamic identity, said that it is on a journey to its final destination and wondered whether the wider British community could be patient. Many people round on the British Muslim community if they do not immediately condemn and apologise for any and every terrorist attack carried out in the name of Islam by extremists, forgetting all the publicity from the Muslim community attacking their actions as being against Islam. The Baroness said she prayed, “never to be on a long haul flight or away from Wi-Fi when an attack occurs”, as within those few hours [an immediate lack of response could imply] she would be accused of condoning terrorism.  

In answer to a question that suggested that Muslims were not doing enough to stop radicalisation in the community, Baroness Warsi pointed out: “There are ISIS conversations going on all around the country between Muslim parents and their children. We educate our children so we can send them to a good university and have a chance to have a good job and a decent life; not so that they can become members of ISIS!”

Somia Shafiq - the Chair of Woking People of Faith - introduced the evening by first explaining the work of Woking People of Faith is a charitable organisation led by members of different faith organisations and individuals in Woking and the surrounding areas and supported by Woking Borough Council. It aims to promote religious and cultural harmony for the benefit of the people of Woking to bring people of different faiths together, to learn from each other and work with each other.

Somia Shafiq, Chair of Woking People of Faith, led a minute’s silence as a mark of respect for the victims of the Paris attacks. She said: “When attacks like the one in Paris occur, communities should be able to understand that their Muslim neighbour is not the one to blame for the actions conducted by a tiny criminal minority. And by meeting people of different faiths, communities realise that everyone, regardless of their faith and cultural backgrounds have similar hopes, dreams and plans for their futures.” This work is at the heart of what Woking People of Faith does, in order to increase understanding and eradicate prejudice between different Faith and cultural communities.


 

All information on this site © Woking People of Faith unless otherwise credited.