SAIF 4th Annual General Meeting - 19th March 2013
Brenda Birnie, Mike & Kathy Eldridge, Kathleen Randall
Chairman’s Brief Review of 2012
We had some excellent meetings in 2012, of which Jason Hart’s ‘Journey in Buddhism’ stands out for me, as does Adam Thorne’s account of Abdul Baha’s visit to the UK 100 years ago. We also welcomed Bill Heilbronn again, and heard about Paganism from Marianne Rohan, and made a visit to Coventry Cathedral on the 50th anniversary of the new building.
We decided to make the Friends Meeting House our regular venue, and thank Alice Herring, who looks after it, and Philip Morris for all their help here.
I would also like to thank the Steering Group, which keeps me on the right lines, and among them Mike and Kathy Eldridge who look after the website.
This year we look forward to Hari das coming in May. Some of us met him at the Hare Krishna temple in Coventry last year. Also Nicholas White from the Christadelphians.
There will be a new departure in September and November. Scriptural Reasoning is a way of studying our own scriptures – whether they are the Bible, the Qur’an, the Bhagavad Gita or the Buddhist sutras, with other believers looking over our shoulder and asking their questions. This has been pioneered in the US and the UK for some 20 years and has brought people of different faiths closer together because they are sharing their deep convictions, not just their customs and rituals. The Steering group will be deciding on a few topics to be our first venture into this.
Syria, Nigeria, Pakistan, Burma, parts of India and Sri Lanka all report conflict between different religious groups, and the UK is not free from the same thing. Our work continues to be really important.
David Izen reported a very satisfactory financial situation with a small surplus which we plan to spend on some advertising.
The Chairman introduced the Chairman of the Warwick District Faiths Forum (WDFF) with a recognition of Jatinder’s part in establishing SAIF, and his consistent support of our group.
Jatinder spoke of the withdrawal or diminution of government funding, which had had the effect of limiting interfaith work all over the UK, and cutting the regional meetings of the Inter Faith Network, and severely limiting organisations like the West Midlands Faiths Forum (WMFF). There were no grants available now, but the future, he felt, lay in establishing partnerships. So WMFF had got sponsorship from EoN for a conference in September 2012 on the Birmingham riots. WDFF had earned money from offering Faith Awareness training days, where members spoke about their faith and practices. They plan a Faith Trail in Coventry on April 27th, and a contribution to the Leamington Peace Festival on June 15/16th.
He spoke of engagement in the issues of race hate, stop-and-search, domestic abuse and the safeguarding of children and vulnerable adults. Why were street lights not lit throughout the night in Leamington to save the council money?
We also discussed the common problem of interesting young people, especially teenagers, in the faith of their parents, but there was some questioning of Jatinder’s emphasis on social and political issues, and whether this was the proper focus for an interfaith group. His response was that we needed to be part of the wider community, and to be engaged with the common issues that faced all of us. Was this not part of living out our faith? Even in Stratford District some needed food banks. He thought that a representative of all the faiths was more likely to be listened to by secular authorities than someone representing only one.
It was a challenging talk from an experienced interfaith leader.