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The UK’s first National Inter Faith Week was held this year from 15 to 21 November. Its stated aims were:

to strengthen good interfaith relations at all levels;
to increase awareness of the different and distinct faith communities in the UK, in particular celebrating and building on the contribution which their members make to their neighbourhoods and to wider society; and to increase understanding between people of religious and non-religious belief.

The Week was facilitated by The Inter Faith Network for the UK (IFN-UK) and the government’s Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) in consultation with theEquality and Human Rights Commission, among other agencies. It was mainly community-led with local faith communities and non-faith groups seeking to reach out to each other and build strong bonds of understanding and cooperation. A host of events including seminars, forums, workshops, and sports and entertainment programmes had been organised to bring together diverse groups of people both locally and nationally.

BAPS affirmed its longstanding commitment to interfaith harmony and dialogue by participating actively in National Inter Faith Week in a number of organised events.

Launch of Inter Faith Week at Lambeth Palace

Nitin Palan, BAPS UK’s interfaith representative and an Executive Director of IFN-UK attended the official launch of Inter Faith Week at Lambeth Palace on Monday 16 November on the invitation of the Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams.

Mr Palan joined leaders and representatives of various faith communities in pledging to continue to build good inter-religious relations.

Click here to read a full report, including the text of the joint statement.

‘Faithful Nurture’ Inter-Faith School Workshop

On Tuesday 17 November, three pupils and senior staff from The Swaminarayan School attended the ‘Faithful Nurture’ workshop at the London Inter Faith Centre along with children from ten other faith schools. This, too, was in the presence of the Archbishop of Canterbury and proved an enlightening day for everyone involved.

Click here for the full report and photos.

The ‘Living Library’ Project

BAPS representative Girish Patel contributed to the ‘Living Library’ project on Friday 20 November to discuss the Hindu faith among a setting of interfaith learning. The DCLG’s Living Library project is a community-based initiative aiming to bring people together in one-to-one conversation, to encourage understanding, challenge negative stereotypes, and reduce prejudice.

The concept of borrowing books is replaced by ‘borrowing a person’, and Girish was high on demand from ‘borrowers’ of different faiths who asked questions about Hindu beliefs and values. Girish later shared that he “learnt just as much about myself in answering people’s questions as I think they did about Hinduism. It was immensely fulfilling and fun!” He also took the opportunity to engage with other living ‘books’ to learn about and appreciate their faiths as well.

For more details about the government’s Living Library project, please click here.

Archbishop of Westminster Visits the Mandir

And on Saturday 21 November 2009, the Archbishop of Westminster, the Most Reverend Vincent Nichols visited BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir. More than 60 members from the country’s major faith communities as well as several civic leaders also attended in what was a warm, inspiring and rewarding evening on the final day of Inter Faith Week.

Click here for the full report and photos.

To learn more about Inter Faith Week, please visit the event site here.

To learn more about The Inter Faith Network for the UK, please click here.

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