All Faiths Standing Together In Memory Of Westminister Bridge Victims

IMG_3028.JPGOn March 29, Faith Network for Manchester (FN4M) arranged a parallel event in Manchester to the one at Westminster to mark one week after the Westminster terror attack. We invited people of faith and interfaith organisations and other community groups to join us on the bridge in Salford Quays between the Lowry Theatre and the Imperial War Museum North.

With only 24 hours notice, around 150 people came together in the rain and linked arms across the whole length of the bridge, holding banners saying ‘Standing Up for One Anther’, ‘Spread Hummus Not Hate’ ‘ We Refuse to be Enemies’ and ‘Love for All, Hatred to None’. All of the major faiths in Manchester were represented and there was a real atmosphere of commitment to peace, harmony and togetherness.

The Faith Network members, including their co-Chairs Qaisra Shahraz and Revd Charles Kwaku-Odoi, vice-chair Grange Williams and Huin Mo, Sukhbir Singh, Amer Salam, faith leaders, members of the Council of Christians and Jews, the Muslim-Jewish Forum, Sikhs, Bahais, Hindus, Jains, other Christians, Muslims and Jews, community leaders, Council representatives and especially members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community en masse as well as the media  TV crews for the BBC and ITV etc were all there.

At 2.40 p.m., the time of the attack last week, we stood for a minute in silence, which was started and ended by the blowing of a Shofar by Rabbi Warren Elf, FN4M community Development Officer who at very short notice worked hard to organise this event.

This was a real testament of the feeling and commitment of all faiths to work together to ensure we can all live in a safe and peaceful society together.  It was a real privilege to be able to bring everyone together to express this solidarity at such short notice.

By Qaisra Shahraz

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Interfaith Gathering In Oldham, England

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On 10th March, women of different faiths; Buddhist, Christian, Jewish, Hindu and Muslim from Cheshire, Manchester & Wigan attended a special gathering at Greenhill Academy in Oldham, in England. The event was part of the celebration of ‘Season of Twinning’ initiative by the Foundation For Ethnic Understanding and International Women’s day.

It was organized by Qaisra Shahraz, a staunch partner of FFEU, international novelist & Co-Chair of Faith Network 4 Manchester, with Oldham Women’s Chai Project led by Najma Khalid, its founder. Marilyn Berg, a comedian who joined with her Jewish group of women had hosted the first successful ‘Twinning’ event with Oldham Muslim women in their Cheshire synagogue, as its chair. May Yau, chair of the Fo Guang Shan Buddhist temple in Manchester came with her Buddhist female colleagues.

The Oldham host team provided splendid hospitality. Over a marvelous brunch of home cooked food the women spent a delightful morning, with heartwarming sharing of stories, poems and learning about women’s lives in other countries and faiths. They learned, for example, about the history of Buddhist nuns from May yau, life in Bosnia during the Sarajevo war from Dudiya Zilic and the Jewish festival of Purim. Women were very respectful in expressing their opinions.

A lovely, happy atmosphere prevailed throughout. Lots of hugs and friendships were formed including with Joyce, a guest from Miami, Florida, who happened to be visiting England.

Local councellor Yasmin Toor and Marziah of Oldham Interfaith were delighted to be part of the gathering. Women enjoyed posing for photos and selfies with banners with special slogans #WeStandTogetherForOneAnother and #SpreadHummusNotHate.

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Qaisra Shahraz

“Really proud & delighted at the success of our,‘Twinning’ event in Oldham with its strong promotion of messages of peace, unity and tolerance #SpreadHummusNotHate and celebration of women’s lives. Women thoroughly enjoyed themselves- with heaps of smiles.The event was indeed a delightful example of community cohesion. Wonderful to visit Greenhill Academy again. I used to teach English classes to women several years ago in this school. Wonderful work by host team!”

Najma Khalid

“It was an honour for us to host so many different women from all walks of life. Amazing women sharing food, stories and themselves. The women brought positive and peaceful energy. We Stand United and have so much in common. We have formed beautiful bonds with these women, which will continue and have started the ripple of change”

Marilyn Berg

“What a fabulous gathering-So many women, of different faiths, talking, eating, sharing stories, laughing together can only bring light and tolerance into the world. May this wonderful spirit of friendship be repeated throughout all the nations. A Rabbinic saying tells us that darkness cannot be driven away with a stick, we have to light a candle.”

May Yau

“I was honoured to be at the event, it was wonderful to meet up different faith speaks out their concern relates to women’s day.

Some have expressed touching issue in poem and proved that women are talented and strong.

I wish these relation continue flourish and stand up to each other.”

Sue Stern

“From our first lovely meeting of getting to know each other, our visit to Oldham on Friday became the beginning of true friendship. As one of the ladies said, when we were laughing and jostling in that great arc to hold up the banner for so many photos, ‘I want to stand with my friend.”

Farmida Bibi

“In order to be tolerant over other faiths, cultures and beliefs we got to remove our inner fear of not being accepted,which is a great fear,just one step towards some one may end up in a hug as i had experienced on this beautiful emotional day ,the embraces of love relief and peace which dissloves all negativity from the soul,it truely felt we all belong together.”

Gina Andrewes

‘What a fabulous and inspiring group of women from our local community and beyond. I really felt there was genuine sisterly support from across the faiths, may that continue. ‘

Shabana Parven

“It was a fantastic opportunity to learn about people from other faiths. I really enjoyed the event and learned so much from  the inspirational women. An eye opener!”

Joyce Kellett

‘As a visitor from Florida U.S.A. I was privileged to attend and thoroughly enjoyed the twinning event with Oldham and Manchester women. I met women from several different cultures and religions. I learned things about each faith and was pleased to meet such strong and passionate women who were willing to celebrate both our differences and our similarities.’

Warm Regards,

Qaisra Shahraz

Novelist, Scriptwriter & Education Consultant (M.A. , M.A. , PGCE, FRSA)

Winner of National Diversity ‘Lifetime Achievement’ Award

Director of Asia Pacific Writers & Translators (APWT)

Listed as Pakistan Power 100 Women

Trustee of Manchester Multi-Faith Centre & Co-Chair of Faith Network 4 Manchester (FN4M)

Connect qaisrashahraz.comFacebookTwitter

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Spread Hummus Not Hate Tour In India

Qaisra Shahraz an international writer and educationist was in India in January and February 2017 to take part in Jaipur and Kerala literature festival and on a 5 city tour. In her role as a peace activist and Chair of Faith Network 4 Manchester, and executive member of Muslim Jewish Forum & We Stand Together she has been assiduously promoting messages of peace, using FFEU banner with its logo, ‘Spread Hummus Not Hate.’

She visited the prestigious Agriculture University, now known as SHIETS and SS Khanna Women College in Allahabad, the state of Gujarat.

In Coimbatore, in Tamil Nadu she was hosted by the Chancellor of the Avinashilingam Women University, Dr Krishna Kumar and in Kerala by Vice Chancellor- Dr. Jayakumar, both well respected and achieving men in their fields.

-This is what Qaisra said to the students and teachers during her visit.

Quote ’We live in dangerous time- with the president of America having legalised hatred, including against Muslims and Jews. Intolerance is a terrible disease. I fear those with intolerant minds. Whether we are Muslims, Jews, Christians or Hindus,we need to stand up, to those who seek to divide us. Through our silence we are condoning the actions of those bent on spreading hate. We should have the courage to challenge those around us, even our family members for example, if they are guilty of spreading hate or promote racism and communal divisions.’

Wherever Qaisra went, she was warmly welcomed. She found the students so engaging, and asked lots of questions. Staff, students, Heads of departments, chancellors and Vice-Chancellors enthusiastically took to the messages of peace & harmony, and happily posed with the peace banner and Qaisra.

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Members of New Jersey State Senate and House Sign Pledge Vowing to Stand Up for Each Other

In an unprecedented action, scores of members of the New Jersey State Senate and State Assembly took the Stand Up for the Other Pledge on December 20. The Pledge, sponsored by the New Jersey Interfaith Coalition (NJIC), and developed by NJIC founder Dr. Ali Chaudry, also president of the Islamic Society of Basking Ridge and co-chair of the New Jersey Muslim-Jewish Solidarity Committee, reads: “While interacting with members of my own faith, ethnic or gender community, or with others, if I hear hateful comments from anyone about members of any other community, I pledge to stand up for the Other and challenge bigotry in any form.”

The New Jersey Interfaith Coalition www.njifc.org developed the Stand Up for the Other pledge in response to efforts by FFEU to bring Jews, Muslims and members of other faith groups together during Season of Twinning events in 2015 and 2016. On November 1, Muslim, Jewish and other students–as well as faith leaders from around thre state–came together at Rutgers University to vow to stand up for each other if any community is unfairly attacked–regardless of the results of the Presidential election.
According to State Senator Raymond Lesniak, who took part in the two twinning events and took the lead in pressing members of the Senate and the Assembly to come together to sign the pledge in unison “We are proud that the State Legislature of New Jersey is the first in the world that has stepped forward to say that each of us is responsible to speak out against bigotry wherever we find it. Added State Sen. Linda Greenstein, who also took part in the twinning events; “This is about standing up and doing the right thing, in order to make the world a better place.”
According to Walter Ruby, “Kudos to our dear friend Ali Chaudry for initiatng this Pledge and congratulations to all of members of the New Jersey Senate and Legislature–both Republicans and Democrats–who chose to stand up against bigotry at a crucial moment. We will now work to get legislators from states across the country to follow New Jersey’s enlightened example.”

Dec 19 4th Edition of SOT in Tunisia

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On the 19th of December FFEU and L’Association Tunisienne de Soutien des Minorités, Tunisian organization supporting minorities hosted the 4th edition of the Season of Twinning in Tunis. The theme of the event was Jewish memory with the screening of the documentary on Muslims and Jews and the presentation of the book of Professor Allagui on Jews and Muslims in Tunisia. This event was organized for the commemoration of the deportation of Tunisian Jews from Tunisia on 1942, 9th of December.

The president of the Jewish community René Trabelsi and His Excellency the french ambassador in Tunisia Mr. Poivre d’Arvor were present. More than 100 people were present throughout the afternoon.

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Dec 17 Mosque Al Khalil’s Interfaith Dinner in Brussels

FFEU European Director Samia Hathroubi attended the Mosque Al Khalil’s interfaith dinner which hosted more than 200 people from the Muslim, Jewish and Christian communities. The Mosque Al Khalil gathered a very unique range of interfaith movements for a popular and friendly moment.

FFEU is very pleased to be part of this network of change makers in Molenbeek in Brussels and is much looking forward to continuing its efforts.

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JEWISH TELEGRAPHIC AGENCY “In the Trump era, imams and rabbis seek a common strategy to counter anti-Muslim hostility”

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JTA covers the 3rd Summit of Greater Washington Imams and Rabbis and mentions FFEU Muslim-Jewish Programs Director Walter Ruby:

“Walter Ruby, FFEU Muslim-Jewish program director for the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding was a keynote speaker of the 3rd Summit of Greater Washington Imams and Rabbis. He said that a 10-person steering committee would be chosen from those attending the meeting.”

Read more on JTA