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In celebration of National Interfaith Week, BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha (BAPS) hosted an evening of dialogue, dinner and music by the Hindu Christian Forum at BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir and The Swaminarayan School on Tuesday 22 November 2011.

More than 70 guests of various faith backgrounds attended the evening. They were firstly greeted and guided around the traditional Hindu temple before joining the main ceremony at the School.

The evening commenced in traditional style as all the delegates came together to light candles from a central divo (oil lamp) while joining in prayers for universal peace during the Vedic Shanti-Paath.

Nitin Palan, National Interfaith Coordinator for BAPS, officially welcomed all the guests, sharing His Holiness Pramukh Swami’s message of ‘the family that eats, plays and prays together, stays together.’ He added: “I think that applies to us all today. As we seek to grow together as people of faith and to celebrate all that is common to us, let us eat, play and pray together – joyfully.”

Ramesh Pattni, Co-Chair of the Hindu Christian Forum, and Rev. Tim Clapton, coordinator of community interfaith project ‘Near Neighbours’, also addressed the gathering. Both welcomed the efforts of better Hindu-Christian relations and reiterated the need for such events which fostered closer friendship among these two important faith communities of the UK.

Dinner was then served to the guests who were seated around tables allowing further opportunity for dialogue and discussion. The sumptuous vegetarian meal was accompanied by a special South Asian composition from Arun Ghosh, British-Asian clarinettist, composer and music educator, and his quintet.

Nitin Palan commented, “This event was a major step forward in ensuring that local faith organisations work together and build mutual trust and respect. It was an honour to welcome so many of our brothers and sisters from such a diverse faith network.”

Kate Wharton, Interreligious Affairs Secretary to the Archbishop of Canterbury, especially praised the organisation of the “inspiring event” and the “brilliant concept” of using music and food to bring together people of different faiths.

The event, partly facilitated by the government’s Department for Communities and Local Government, served as a precursor for the official launch of the Hindu Christian Forum (of which BAPS is an active member), which was held at Lambeth Palace on Wednesday 23 November by Hindu and Christian representatives, including the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams.

National Interfaith Week is organised by The Inter Faith Network for the UK and ran this year between 20-26 November. It aims to help strengthen interfaith relations, highlight the contributions which faith communities make to society, and develop dialogue and cooperation between people of different faiths and no faith. BAPS has been a keen supporter of the initiative since it began in 2009 and is otherwise committed to opening doors and building bridges through its year-round community outreach activities.

To learn more about National Interfaith Week and the work of The Inter Faith Network for the UK, please follow the respective links.

To read a report of the Hindu Christian Forum launch on the Archbishop’s website, please click here.

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