Interfaith Service at the Al Mahdi Institute, Birmingham: 'The Healing Power of Forgiveness’
Inter-religious Association for Peace and Development
On Sunday, July 2nd the Womens' Federation for World Peace and the Universal Peace Federation Birmingham convened an inspirational Interfaith Service at the Al-Mahdi Institute. There was a wide range of faiths and civic leaders from Birmingham and the West Midlands participating in this programme, invited by Dr David and Patricia Earle, who head UPF-UK's Inter-Religious Association for Peace and Development (IAPD). Imam Shahed Tameez, Rev Marcia Levine, Mrs Swaran Talwar (Hindu), Dr David Earle, Pastor Elliot Yamamoto, and Rev. Dr David Hanna were among those speaking.
Rev. Dr. Hanna, developing the theme of the Interfaith Service of ‘The Healing Power of Forgiveness’, referred to the meeting of the founders of UPF with President Kim Il Sung after repeated attempts to assassinate Father Moon and the suffering that he had had to undergo during his time in North Korea in the early years of Communist rule. The power of forgiveness was demonstrated in that meeting and the results that stemmed from it.
Dr. David Earle spoke about the Bereaved Family Forum (BFF) that he had had the chance to relate with during his experience of Middle East Peace Initiative (MEPI). The BFF are composed of Palestinians and Israelis who have lost a close family member in the conflict and wish to work for peace and reconciliation with a grieving partner from the other side, rather than seeking revenge. Representatives of the BFF addressed the MEPI delegations and also were welcomed in the UK during their fundraising and advocacy visits.
Imam Shahed Tameez spoke of the many positive psychological developments which forgiveness can offer such as releasing anger, repairing valuable relationships, personal growth, and exercising goodness towards the other, regardless of the response. We all look at, and express things, differently, and we need to understand that this can sometimes be why we are hurt by someone, and that it is not necessarily intentional.
Rev Marcia Levine spoke of her work as a Prison Chaplain with women, and young men, quoting examples where individuals needed healing in order to release the pain and anger held inside. She asked us to physically clench our fists as hard as we could, and then release them, comparing the feeling of relief and liberation we felt with the freedom which comes from releasing the anger and hurt trapped within.
Mrs Swaran Talwar spoke about the universal nature of Hinduism, not having been founded by any one individual. As much a way of life, as a religion or philosophy, Hinduism has universal application and emphasises non-violence, compassion and forgiveness, all of which can contribute to a life of true freedom and happiness, without the pain and anger which so often cause us difficulty in our relationship with others.
Attending this interfaith service were twelve Christian Ministers, comprising 6 male and 6 female Pastors, from Baptist, Methodist, Anglican and Pentecostal churches. There were four Imams from major mosques in Birmingham. The UK General Secretary of the Namdhari Sikhs was attending. The leader of the Brahma Kumaris in Birmingham also was there. The audience included two Birmingham City Councillors and three women leaders from diaspora ethnic organisations from Uganda, Rwanda and Tanzania. There were four members of the police, including the West Midlands Police Crime Commissioner. There were five Ambassadors for Peace: Cllr Shabina Bano; Imam Mohammed Asad MBE; Mauricio Silva UK Interreligious Coordinator for the Columbans; Mahmooda Qureshi Programme Coordinator for the Faith and Belief Forum; and Father Abba (Ethiopia) Community Minister at Birmingham's prestigious city centre church - St Martins in the Bullring. In total around 150 people attended, and £400 was raised for a Shia mosque's project in Syria, which supports displaced women and children.