Hounslow Women's Interfaith Workshops
by Charanjit Ajit Singh
an Initiative Interfaith Trust project funded by the ‘Faiths in Action’ programme 2009-2011
Now that the project is complete and all the paperwork has been finalised I would like, as a volunteer working with the Workshops, to provide an insight into what I believe are some of the valuable achievements of this project: firstly, the fostering of friendships amongst women across faith communities is fundamental to social harmony, and we hope that the friendships formed at the workshops will also extend to the linking between families and friends.
Secondly, the symbolism of the flower ceremony enjoyed at each event will remain a fond memory of a sense of bonding: each woman taking her turn to reverently place a flower in a large bowl of water in the centre of the room, while others maintained stillness and silence, created an aura of spiritual togetherness that had a deeper meaning, I believe, for all of us beyond our religious boundaries. I felt really privileged to be part of this. Thirdly, there was a significant contribution made towards building inter-religious harmony through various stages of the workshops:
- Women gained knowledge and understanding of each other's faiths through talks by women who were leaders in their field: also through discussions that took place within the group.
- The experiencing of worship of different faiths - especially through the chanting of sacred scriptures and the singing of holy verses, often with the whole group voluntarily joining in.
- Increased knowledge of issues facing women socially within the community; isolation in the home or prejudice experienced in shops etc.
- Continued dialogue and action, which is ongoing in a wider field.
I believe that Women's Interfaith Workshops are an exciting way for bringing women of different faiths together: to share their thoughts and experiences in a safe environment that enables them to develop friendships, and to learn from one another. The magazine Faith Initiative provided us with useful starting points for discussions, often at a deeper level than one would anticipate, about subjects and topics that are relevant to women's lives. The model that we piloted in Hounslow can, I feel, be emulated by women in other areas of the country. Although we are sadly unable to provide any financial support, we are happy to share our experience of running the workshops, and where possible provide guidance.
Please contact Heather Wells, Chair of Initiative Interfaith Trust for further information: firstname.lastname@example.org