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respect and compassion through dialogue and cooperation

ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING 29th March 2016

Report from the Chair, Rev Ros Murphy for the year 2015 – 2016

Since our AGM on March 17th 2015, our interfaith group has continued to meet every other month.

Perhaps it is a timely reminder of our intention in meeting, to include as part of our AGM, our reasons for existing!

Our Vision is to bring together people of all faiths, in recognition of the value of diversity in our society. We will appreciate similarities, respect differences and learn about one another. In this way we will develop strong and positive links and relationships between people of all generations from different faiths and cultures, for the long term benefit of the community.

Membership is open to any person of any faith who accepts the Aim and Vision of SAIF as expressed above. Members agree not to try to convert others to their own faith, but expect that their own faith will often be deepened by insights from others. They accept that there are many areas where members have very different views.

Review of the past year

Our group continues to meet bi-monthly, and we are grateful to The Stratford Society of Friends for their ongoing hospitality at a cost well within our budget.

The Steering group continues to meet in between most meetings arranging our programmes. The hospitality of Sylvia Clark is much appreciated, in the welcome at her home for the Steering Group and in organising refreshments for our SAIF meetings.

Our AGM in 2015 was followed by a presentation by Ruth Tetlow describing the Faith Encounter Programme which trains members of various faiths to act as guides for visiting groups aiming to deepen understanding.

In May Roman Catholic priest, Father Brian Doolan guided us through Roman Catholic teaching on Interfaith matters.

Unfortunately in July our speaker was unable to attend, so Christopher Lamb stepped in at the last minute  and very ably enabled us to explore thoughts on the current situation in the Muslim world.

In September The Rev Canon Andrew Wickens shared with us the difficulties facing Muslims in Dudley, especially when the town is targeted by the protest marches of The English Defence League.

The November meeting was expertly led by Sally Lessiter, clearly an authority on Mary Baker Eddy and Christian Science.

Our own David Izen led our January meeting, exploring with us the big distinction in Buddhism between the southern Theravada tradition and that of the northern Mahana Buddhists.  David also spoke about the origin of his own tradition of Buddhism, stemming from the 13th century Japanese teacher, Nichiren.

We are grateful to our web-master, Mike Eldridge and to report writer Christopher Lamb that details of all the meetings can be found on the website.

Future plans.

  • May 17th Rabbi Dr Margaret Jacobi from Birmingham Progressive Synagogue
  • July 19th Patricia Earle  - Vice President UK of The Women’s Federation for world Peace
  • September 27th Canon Dr Christopher Lamb – Radicalisation and British Values
  • November  (date yet to be confirmed)  Eva McKenzie    - Mindfulness
  • Suggestions for future topics or speakers are very welcome.

Contacts elsewhere.

Our membership of the Inter Faith Network for the UK brings details of various activities and concerns, though mostly they are not very accessible for us, but the details can readily be forwarded for anyone interested. I am asked to share with you this message and have a copy of their Way Forward on  Governance if anyone would like to read this.

We were invited by one of our previous speakers, Rehanah Sadiq, to The Unveiling of the Mihrab at the QE hospital in Birmingham, an inspiring event with vistors from many faiths and none – and the source of two of our speakers!

We were also invited to join The Bahai of Central and South Warwickshire as they celebrated the Bahai New Year on March 20th.

Inter Faith Week in 2016 is from November 13th to 20th. Our November meetings usually fall during this week.

The Warwick District Faiths Forum Faiths Trail takes place on Saturday 16th April. A poster gives details and further information can be obtained from Jatinder Birdi.

Finance and Membership Report – David Izen, the Treasurer, reported that we currently have a £70 deficit, which the Steering Group will need to consider at its next meeting.  The Friends charge only £18 as session for the hire of these premises.

The existing Steering Group (Ros Murphy, Sylvia Clark, David Izen and Christopher Lamb) were re-elected.

AGM Discussion Questions

A lively 'Any Questions'-type discussion followed the formal business of the AGM, lfocussed on the following questions, which had been suggested by members beforehand:

  • Why is there so much violence, pain and suffering in the world if God is almighty and loving?
  • Is religion necessary or can you just be spiritual?
  • What is your understanding of life after this life?
  • Can humans survive without spirituality?
  • What's the common belief shared by the major world religions?
  • Christianity is divided about the practice of praying for the dead. Do other religions practise this?
  • What use is theology?
  • Have we outgrown religion?
  • How do we know that there IS a God?

Some of the many points made were that:

  • God chooses to make himself vulnerable, and has given us free will
  • community makes people stronger; a 'solo' faith would not be challenged by anyone
  • prayer is basic to humanity
  • compassion and love are common to all faiths, as is the Golden Rule
  • we know there is a God by experience, by 'road-testing' faith in him/her
  • one person wanted to question whether every kind of spirituality is good, but the common assumption was that corruption and evil happened to religion, not to spirituality
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