Saturday 26th May 2012 saw the 27th Annual London Multi-Faith Pilgrimage for Peace in the East End of London. It was the second occasion on which I had been able to join this inspiring walk. I was only one of over 100 pilgrims from a wide range of beliefs, who were able to bear witness to their faiths.
All religions were represented, either in the groups of pilgrims or in the places of worship we visited. We were guests of the Forest Gate Faithful Friends, which is an organisation started as a pro-ject in 2007, with the aim of bringing local people of different faiths together so as to learn from each other and develop a friendship together. They visit each other’s places of worship, celebrate major reli-gious festivals and organise other events together.
The meeting point and first place of worship was St Ethelburga’s Centre. In 1993 the Church was de-stroyed by an IRA bomb and since then the centre has grown, phoenix like, from the devastation to become a place of reconciliation and interreligious dialogue. A talk explaining the history and work of St Ethelburga’s was followed by a visit to the ‘tent’ and after refreshments, we assembled to go in pro-cession with banners flying and led by a Japanese Buddhist monk with a hand drum. Thus we pro-gressed to Liverpool Street station in order to take a train to Manor Park for our next stop.
The Sri Muragan Temple is a fine example of a South Indian Hindu Temple. It was built in 1983 by skilled craftsmen and sculptors from Tamil Nadu and serves the community of worshipers in that part of East London in addition to many visitors from both England and overseas. We were made most welcome and several additional pilgrims joined us at this point. These included a fellow Heythrop alumnus who had been with me on my BA course. We were given great hospitality but did not overin-dulge as lunch was to be provided at our next desti-nation.
This was St Michael’s/Froud Centre. When work was needed on the large Anglican Church a far-sighted decision was made to build the new Church on a scale that was appropriate to the size of the congregation. This left a lot of space avail-able and the Froud Centre was established. This caters for people of all faiths and none as an out-reach facility for the local community. The centre is used for a wide range of activities enjoyed by young and old alike. These include interfaith learning and worship.
After lunch we took busses to Forrest Gate so as to visit two Mosques (one Shi’a and One Sunni). The latter, Minhaj-Ul-Quran Mosque was much the larger, which may be indicative of the relative sizes of each community. 80% of Muslims are Sunni and I expect that that is the case in this lo-cality also. St. Anthony’s RC Church was our pe-nultimate stop and I was pleased to notice that our pilgrimage was highlighted in the weekly parish newsletter. The activities of our hosts the Forest Gate Faithful Friends were highlighted during an interesting talk from the altar.
Our final destination was the Ramgharia Sikh Gurdwara. We were entertained in a large upper room where, for the first time that day, there were separate areas for men and women. The air condi-tioning was so efficient that I found it necessary to put on the coat that I had carried all day. One aspect of the Sikh religion is the Langar (holy food), which is prepared in the Gurdwaras while reciting Holy Hymns from Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji. This is served free to everybody who visits, and that of course included our entire group.
It had been a most inspiring and thought provok-ing day and it had raised our hopes for peace and reconciliation