BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha is committed to engaging, sharing and collaborating with different faith communities. In the UK, this is channelled through a number of events around the year, especially during National Inter Faith Week.
Inter Faith Week is an annual event that takes place across the UK in November with the aim of fostering good relationships and working partnerships between people and organisations of different faiths and beliefs.
This year, representatives of five different faiths – Christians, Hindus, Jews, Sikhs and Zoroastrians – gathered at The Swaminarayan School on Sunday 16 November 2014 to offer prayers for the local community.
The event coincided with Mitzvah Day, the day in celebration of the Jewish coming-of-age ritual, when the Jewish community joins others “to donate their time and energy to a diverse range of vital causes that make a tangible difference to those in need around the world.”
Children of The Swaminarayan Sunday School from BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, London collected more than 150 cans of food for Sufra – a community food bank and kitchen based nearby in the London Borough of Brent. It aims to support disadvantaged families suffering from food poverty in the local area, including the more than 29,000 children in north-west London who are living in severe poverty.
Young members of other faiths also supported the initiative by organising similar collections of their own. Following the prayer meeting, children and adults from the various faiths visited Sufra together to formally donate the food for the homeless.
Mohammed Mamdani, Director of Sufra, thanked everyone for their combined efforts of collecting 161kg of food, which will support 10 families with emergency supplies for at least 7 days.
“We are very proud,” he said, “to have the support of the Hindu, Jewish, Sikh and Zoroastrian communities during Interfaith Week…. This partnership sends out a strong message of unity, and demonstrates the contribution of faith groups in alleviating poverty in our community.”
Darshika Patel, aged 12, sharing her experiences of the event, said: “It was a privilege to meet children like me of other religions and share our prayers. Joining together and helping others taught me that no matter what faith you are, we can all help each other.”
Priti Patel, a volunteer at the Sunday School, added, “Whatever our faith, we all have charity in our hearts. Once again, all faiths pulled together for a good cause.”
Kirit Wadia, interfaith volunteer for BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha in the UK, summarised his thoughts of the day: “It was heart-warming working with people of different faiths for such a worthy cause, and very encouraging to see so many young people getting involved. The event demonstrated the common core of goodwill that exists between all faiths and reinforced the spirit of harmony which His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj has always promoted.”