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.

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. 

AGM 2019

The well attended AGM was held on 24th July in the splendid environment of the top floor of Hounslow House, the new Civic Centre. The keynote speaker was Maqsood Ahmed OBE, Director of UK Projects for the charity Muslim Hands. His theme was The Importance of Interfaith Dialogue in Contemporary Societies. He expressed the view that  dialogue is about building bridges through ta’rafu – which means knowing each other. His vision is to work for the good of humanity not retaliating to hostility or negative views. He described the Muslim Hands Project in Hounslow called Open Kitchen. This restaurant on the Great West Road is open daily with nourishing free meals for those in need.

Walk of Peace and Friendship 2019

Outside the World Zoroastrian Centre, Feltham

This year’s HFOF Walk of Peace and Friendship was held on Saturday 22nd June with more than forty walkers taking part. The walk visited the World Zoroastrian Centre in Hanworth Road Feltham, the Gurdwara Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak in Martindale Road Hounslow, the Islamic Integration Community Centre, Staines Road Hounslow and St Mary’s Church in Bedfont. The Mayor of Hounslow Cllr Tony Louki attended and as always the walkers were given a warm welcome at every venue.