Reflections on the Yom Kippur Avodah meditation, 19 September, 2018

We have now reached the Avodah Service; in a few moments Ben will lead us through the ancient meditative prayer before we go on into the remainder of Mussaf.

 

At this point, the day starts to take on a different aspect – partly this is no doubt a result of our physiologies slowing down, but partly too because the prayers and piyut take on a different tone and rhythm to that which we have already read together. The pace slows, but the drama and emotion increases – beyond the Avodah service lies the story of Jonah with the decree of doom against the people of Ninevah and Jonah’s spiritual and temporal exile in the belly of the whale; and before that the Story of the Ten Martyrs with all its harrowing detail of murder and religious persecution.

 

But now we have the recitation of the Avodah Service. At this stage of the day and with those reflective sections still to come, the Avodah piyut, in which the author seems to revel in the finest of detail – every drop of blood is accounted for – seems a perplexing choice to aid our personal and communal reflection and meditation.

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The role of interfaith education in promoting religious tolerance

Remarks made at the OSCE’s Human Security Committee meeting, Vienna, 5 June, 2018.

 

Your Excellencies, distinguished participants, thank you for the invitation….

 

I read with interest the concept note which was circulated prior to this meeting, the emphasis on preventing intolerance stood out and gave me an opportunity to reflect on the journey that the organisation which I work for, the Faith and Belief Forum, has been on over the last 20 years.

 

I was invited here to provide some context as to how interfaith can be a tool for promoting inter-religious tolerance, however, I would like to begin by telling the story of the organisation as in many ways that illustrates the challenges and opportunities presented by interfaith education work.

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Nine months in the life of 3FF

Who would have thought that nine months could go by so quickly! It seems like only yesterday that Rachel Silveira and I were discussing her hand over to me, and now, well, now the roles are reversed and come early September Rachel will be back in post as Deputy Director.

One of the things that I was responsible for while in post was collating our latest Annual Report which will shortly be with the Charity Commission, and rather than rehashing the highlights featured in that report, I thought it would be nice idea to share with you some of my personal highlights of the last nine months. So, in no particular order here come my top five as not featured in the Annual Report. Continue reading

Working for change locally and internationally

Last month I was fortunate to be a delegate at the seventh annual United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC) Global Forum having been selected to share my reflections of the UNAOC Fellowship programme of which I am an alum and you can read about my travels at my blog, here. The Global Forum is an annual event which brings together individuals, organisations, Government Officials and academics working on questions of Intercultural dialogue for three days of meetings, workshops and discussions. If nothing else, it is a fascinating opportunity to gauge where the sector is up to and to reflect on the place of 3FF in the sector. Continue reading

Bound for Baku

I am sitting in Istanbul airport sipping cherry juice (from a can, nothing too exotic or decedent), waiting for my connecting flight to Baku. It should be leaving in about two hours.

 

I am on my way to the grandly named Baku Forum which is an initiative of the UNAOC (it’s the seventh of these jamborees for those who are interested).

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How can interfaith help when tragedy strikes?

“It’s a condition of the times, this compulsion to hear how it stands with the world, and be joined to the generality, to a community of anxiety. The habit’s grown stronger these past two years; a different scale of news value has been set by monstrous and spectacular scenes. The possibility of their recurrence is one thread that binds the days. The government’s counsel – that an attack in a European or American city is an inevitability – isn’t only a disclaimer of responsibility, it’s a heady promise … Just as the hospitals have their crisis plans, so the television networks stand ready to deliver, and their audiences wait. Bigger, grosser next time. Please don’t let it happen. But let me see it all the same, as it’s happening and from every angle, and let me be among the first to know.”
                                                                                                    Saturday, Ian McEwan

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