An important message on funerals

Father Luke Miller, Anglican Archdeacon of London, Chair of the Faith Cell of the London Resilience Strategic Coordination Group writes:

When a loved one dies it is very important to know that they are being treated with dignity and respect. All those involved in the death management process are aware of this and, in particular,  of the need in some faiths for funerals to take place as soon as possible after death. Others would prefer to wait longer for a burial or cremation than is currently feasible.

However, it is important to know that there are currently significant pressures beyond anyone’s control which may cause delays and difficulties. Automatic referrals to the Coroner, which occur when a loved one has not seen a doctor in the 28 days before their death, are a significant factor which can cause delay for those who have died in the community. In addition, there are sadly many more burials and cremations taking place than usual and many staff are off sick.

Please be assured that the needs of families are at the centre of a great deal of work that is going on to address these issues but it is inevitable that challenges will remain. Please do share this message with your own communities to raise awareness of these issues and encourage families to work with your faith Funeral Directors to help move things forward at this very difficult time.

Isis Terrorist Attack on Sikh Worshippers in Kabul, Afghanistan on Wednesday 25th March 2020

In these challenging times for us all it is shocking to hear of this terrorist
attack on innocent Sikh worshippers and mourners and although we
cannot physically gather together to show support and solidarity let us
hold our Sikh brothers and sisters in our thoughts and prayers.

Words taken from a Press Release | March 26, 2020  
The American Sikh Council (ASC) is extremely distraught by the terrorist
attack on the only Gurdwara Guru Har Rai located in Shor Bazaar, Kabul,Afghanistan, yesterday. According to reports several attackers stormed
the gurdwara premises at about 7am and killed at least twenty-five (25)
innocent Sikhs who had gathered for prayer services. Eight (8) more have been seriously injured and have been sent to ER at the local hospital. ISIShas claimed responsibility for the savage attack. Kabul is home to the
few hundred remaining Sikhs in Afghanistan and Sikh-Afghans currently face a very difficult predicament and most have been forced to flee to
other countries starting in the early 90s. The remaining Sikhs are very
vulnerable and do not have the resources or ability to relocate to other
countries. With no other options, international resettlement has become
the only feasible solution for Sikh-Afghan asylum seekers as they are
persecuted because of their distinct and independent faith. While the
entire Sikh-Afghan community were still mourning, another bomb blast was set off today at the funeral of the 25 Sikhs at the crematorium. The
youngest victim was a six (6) year old child. The American Sikh Council (ASC) and all other Sikh organisations in the US request the State department to assist the Afghan authorities to offer meaningful protection to
Sikh-Afghans, meanwhile the US State department seriously consider
giving them asylum urgently, because based on the past history it is
highly likely the rest of them could be killed soon. Without immediate
assistance, the remaining Sikhs in Afghanistan face a tragic fate.
Although this is a difficult time for America and the entire world as we
combat the Corona virus, we must remember our duty to assist
vulnerable communities facing extermination such as Sikhs in
Afghanistan. The American Sikh Council calls on the US government to
expedite the processing of their refugee applications and allow the Sikhs
remaining in Afghanistan to be directly sponsored by Americans.

IMPORTANT INFORMATION for Faith Leaders concerning care of the deceased

To all faith organisations Kelly O’Neill, the Director of Public Health for Hounslow, is happy to take any questions, and consider and respond to any concerns your organisations may have at this time in regards to health matters, however, can I ask you to feed them into my inbox for collation and passing on joan.conlon@hounslow.gov.uk  As you can imagine her email account is swamped. 

If you click on the link below it will provide what we hope is clear and unambiguous advice.  

The guidance is: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-guidance-for-care-of-the-deceased/guidance-for-care-of-the-deceased-with-suspected-or-confirmed-coronavirus-covid-19#responders

In terms of infection control we are advised that ‘from a PH view and based on the reference in the above document regarding handling the body that that there is a small but real risk of contamination and infection transmission, the body handling and washing should not be done by an individual who is within the defined vulnerable group – an older person and/ or someone with a health condition. 

All persons cleaning and handling a body if this is absolutely necessary should be wearing personal protective equipment of fluid resistant masks, gloves and aprons, and should be strictly adhering to meticulous hand hygiene guidance.

Going forward Kelly has confirmed she is happy to have a discussion with any faith leaders who wants help about interpretation of this guidance.

News of the passing of Dadi Janki


The Brahma Kumaris share the news that Dadi Janki, their much loved
Spiritual Head, passed on from this physical life, at 2am, India time on
Friday 27th March. The soul has flown and is now in God’s lap.
It is a time to pay silent homage to this tireless spiritual server who
has meant so much to so many.  We treasure the wealth of personal
lessons in wisdom and courage she shared through her life. 

URGENT message from Kelly O’Neill, Director of Public Health LBH

Please take urgent note of the following message from Kelly O’Neill and also communicate this information to any other congregations which hire your premises.

Dear Hounslow Faith Leaders  

You will be aware of the need for us all to play our part in responding to the current national crisis around (coronavirus) Covid-19 and the importance of working together to reduce the spread of infection. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you it can be fatal, and is particularly dangerous for older people, those with a long-term health condition, and pregnant women.

Whilst many of you have taken notice and been responsible for your congregation’s health and wellbeing, it is becoming increasingly apparent that responsible action to stop mass gatherings has not been applied across all your congregations.

As Director of Public Health for the Borough of Hounslow I am responsible for ensuring that the health and wellbeing of our residents is protected and not  unnecessarily put at risk by lack of responsible action 

I am writing to ask that you to recognise that unless you stop these gatherings which  significantly increase the risk of infection for your congregation, especially to your older worshippers who are particularly vulnerable, you  are at considerable risk of increasing the spread and putting lives in danger.

As you will be aware, it is the parents and grandparents of your communities, and our brothers and sisters with long term health conditions for whom there is greater risk of severe symptoms and the need to access specialist health services. If we allow transmission to be rapid the reality is that we overload critical health services and their ability to protect those we care about from this virus, and this is a risk to life. I’m afraid that is the consequence of not taking action.

Challenging times call for tough words and I make no excuses for the directness of this message. We each have a responsibility to act in the best interests of our communities and help protect the health and wellbeing of our most vulnerable residents. We should not put them at avoidable risk.  

The following guidance is available for you to review:

Church of England: https://www.churchofengland.org/more/media-centre/coronavirus-covid-19-guidance-churches

Muslim Council of Britain: https://mcb.org.uk/mcb-updates/coronavirus-guidance-for-mosques-and-madrassas/

Catholic Church:    https://www.catholicnews.com/services/englishnews/2020/churches-begin-canceling-masses-in-effort-to-stem-covid-19-pandemic.cfm

 The Board of Deputies of British Jews:  https://www.bod.org.uk/coronavirus/

 My best wishes to you Kelly

 Kelly O’Neill | Director of Public Health

5th Floor, Hounslow House

7 Bath Road,

Hounslow, TW3 3EB

London Borough of Hounslow

0208 583 3142

07971 473 931

Kelly.oneill@hounslow.gov.uk

Endorsing Statement by Inter Faith Network UK

Part of a Statement by the Faith Communities Forum of the Inter Faith Network for the UK ~ an organisation to which Hounslow Friends of Faith is affiliated:

Our United Kingdom and its individual nations are home to people of many different faiths and beliefs.

As faith communities, each with our own traditions and beliefs, we affirm strongly the value of harmonious coexistence, of values that are shared and of cooperation for the common good.

We are particularly concerned at this time about prevalence of divisive rhetoric, hate speech and rising hate crime. There are those who are actively seeking to drive a wedge between communities, to divide and to foment prejudice and hatred. 

We stand together in the face of such destructive actions and in support of those affected. We encourage all to join us in working for greater understanding, for cooperation and positive coexistence and, in the words of IFN’s vision, “a society where there is understanding of the diversity and richness of the faith communities in the UK and the contribution that they make; and where we live and work together with mutual respect and shared commitment to the common good.”

Visit to Heston Coptic Orthodox Church

Hounslow Friends of Faith were invited to visit St Mary and Pope Kyrillos VI Coptic Orthodox Church Heston on Monday 3rd February and join committee members of the International Association of Religious Freedom, following their regular meeting, for lunch and a presentation by Father Morkos Fakhry Gamil giving the history of the Coptic Church. A number from HFOF and MP Ruth Cadbury accepted the invitation and enjoyed their visit.

After lunch Mrs Charanjit AjitSingh, as a committee member of each organisation, gave a brief introduction about the International Association of Religious Freedom and HFOF.

Then Father Morkos gave a comprehensive history about the Orthodox Coptic Church. Here are some of the facts he shared. The Christian message was first brought to Egypt by St Mark who is known as the first Pope of Alexandria. During the time of the Roman Empire Christians suffered persecution particularly under Emperor Diocletian. Important theologians from the Coptic Church include: Origen, Athanasius and Cyril the Great. The monastic way of life also started in Egypt with St Anthony, St Pacomius and St Shenauda. The Great Schism between the Oriental Orthodox Church and the Western Church occurred in 451 AD following the Council of Chalcedon when there was a difference of opinion about the language used to describe the nature of Jesus.

The Coptic Church survived the rise of Islam in Egypt in the seventh century. Public Christian teaching was not allowed but songs about faith were introduced.

Through the years the Coptic Church introduced schools for both boys and girls and had an early ability to print books. During the first half of the 20th century the church was very influential and there was a Coptic Prime Minister in 1908 but he was assassinated after only a year in office. Then during the time Nasser was Prime Minister there were economic changes and tensions and many Christians and Jews left the country. At the present time there are good relations between Prime Minister Sisi and Pope Tawadros II. Copts make up 15 – 20% of the population of Egypt.  

The St Mary and Pope Kyrillos VI Coptic Orthodox Church in Heston was started six years ago and now serves the local community through providing worship services, support for homeless in Hounslow and music and other education sessions.

Father Morkos was thanked for his most interesting presentation and he and the management were thanked for their generous hospitality. Those who wished were given a tour of the church and shown the icons of the saints and the colourful windows depicting three miracles of Jesus raising the dead to life. An open invitation was given to attend worship – see the church’s web site for details of times. It is not recommended that visitors attend on a Sunday as the church is always very full on that day for the three hour service.

Holocaust Day Event

This year’s Holocaust Memorial Day Event was hosted by St Mark’s Secondary School, Hounslow on Monday 27th January. The event was led by the Area Dean Reverend Richard Frank and attended by the Mayor, the Deputy Mayor, the Leader of Hounslow Council and other members of the Council, local MP Ruth Cadbury, representatives from Hounslow Friends of Faith, the local community and pupils from the school. The theme was Stand Together.

The Guest Speaker was Natalie Cumming who gave an enthralling talk based around her book ‘The Fiddle’, a true story about her family and how a violin helped her family to flee from Bolshevik Russia in the 20th century and her aunt to later survive in Auschwitz and Belsen Nazi concentration camps. Members of the school orchestra played the Nimrod theme and  the school drama department performed a dramatised reading of the poem Tormented Hearts by Misba Sheikh.

Interfaith Week Meeting

Hounslow Friends of Faith arranged a most thought provoking evening at the Baitul Wahid Ahmadiyya Mosque, discussing:

“Life after Death?” with speakers from the:

– Humanists UK

– Christian Coptic Orthodox church

– Brahma Kumaris

– Ahmadiyya Community

This was part of National Interfaith Week 2019 which took place from 10th – 17th November this year.

The Three Aims of Interfaith Week are:

  • Strengthening good inter faith relations at all levels
  • Increasing awareness of the different and distinct faith communities in the UK, in particular celebrating and building on the contribution which their members make to their neighbourhoods and to wider society
  • Increasing understanding between people of religious and non-religious beliefs

HFOF Knitting Group


Soroptimist International of Kingston upon Thames and District closed earlier this year and used their remaining funds to donate to local charities. They made a donation of £50 to the Knitting Group for materials. This was presented at the November meeting.