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Strategic Officer's Reflection on recent events 2016

Chandrakant Parmar (Chan)

Bolton Interfaith Council's (BIC) work is all about 'Working together in partnership' to promote harmony, better understanding and co-operation between all our communities and its citizens.

Importance of Interfaith Peace Prayers held in Bolton

Who are we praying for-

Sadly, recently there has been a number of tragic incidents in which innocent lives have been lost. We can think of France- Paris last year, truck driven at people in Nice, in Germany- Munich young people lured and killed and followed by death of Catholic Priest Father Jacques Hamel in Normandy. That was brutal- callous and many others including numerous innocent lost lives in Middle East which is a troubled place on earth- with Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, parts of Africa and others where there is so much suffering of people. Millions live in make shift tents with unimaginable hardships.

So we as decent, law abiding citizens of the civil society of faith, no faith and of many varied cultures and traditions must come together in prayers to pay homage and respect to the ones who have lost their lives and also for their families whose grief and pain we share.

Significance of Peace Prayers-

Prayers plays an important part in most people's lives. Prayers can provide platform to bond, unite, reconciliation and also opportunity for reflection to people from many back grounds regardless of their faith, no faith, colour, creed or anything. Community interfaith prayers give an opportunity for such like-minded people to come together to speak/ read and make statements of unity against such acts which are inhumane, barbaric and driven by hatred and twisted ideology by a minority. Gathering through events like peace prayers, gives a strong united message from the wider community who care for peace, harmony and building trust between all our diverse communities.

Our recent two interfaith prayers on 20th July for Nice in France victims held at the Swaminarayan Mandir, Deane and on 29th July for father Jacques Hamel held at St. Patrick' were well attended and had speakers from faiths, local council, was attended by the Mayor of Bolton ,Tony Lloyd, Police Commissioner and Father John Dale led and organised service.

At the moment this are troubled times and it is vital the good citizens and leaderships in our towns and throughout country unite and work towards peace, harmony and reconciliation.

Bolton Interfaith Council has been at forefront of organising such prayers and charity events through its many contacts in the community with support from many partners. Other peace prayers and charity events in the past includes - Pakistan floods, Haiti, Nepal, New Zealand earthquakes, Mumbai attacks, Peshawar deaths, Paris victims last November and significant one locally for Alan Henning - a taxi driver from Eccles. These are some events upon where BIC has led and supported the needy and at same time bring local communities together.

Bolton is a good model for community cohesion through many excellent partnerships between many groups. Having said that, this is a very changing and challenging world, hence we cannot take anything for granted and must strive to work continually for "Peace" in all our towns. 31st July 2016

Reflections on our work in the year 2016- by Chan Parmar

Introduction- I truly believe, the role of "Interfaith Engagement" is very important in any community. To achieve a large degree of trust, respect and cultural understanding for peace and harmony between various groups and communities, hence the work of interfaith engagement is of paramount interest for a harmonious society. The work of interfaith is to "CONNECT ALL" groups of people and organisations for common good of peace and harmony in our towns, cities, nationally and globally.

Bolton Interfaith Council- (BIC) in 2016

It has been an interesting, hopefully progressive and certainly a busy year for all of us associated with Bolton Interfaith Council. Throughout the year, we have done well with our own events, supported our partners at every possible opportunity – which is all about "Building Bridges" between all our communities. Hence, you can see below listed some of the partners with whom we have worked closely together for improving community relations in Bolton. The support of Bolton Council is vital to our work and I sincerely hope that continues.
In a big multicultural town like Bolton, to try and attain the above mentioned aims, it is paramount that we at BIC work in sustainable partnerships. For me, I think Bolton Council has been very forward thinking in terms of funding the faith groups, BIC, and many others which has allowed community groups to come together in meetings as well as at many events which helps to bond and promote the good work in our town. Events like our own led "Spirit of Bolton"- which last year as 6th successive year was a huge success in terms of "partnership working" and showcase for community cohesion.
Coming to our own project work – Firstly, there are events we lead and get support from partners- ie Holocaust Memorial Day, Genocide Memorial Day, Peace Prayers and week of activities during the National Interfaith week-have been very successful in terms of participation from schools and community groups. During the year we supported our partners with Easter events, civic events, Asian Elders- Eid, Diwali & Advent celebrations, Black History events, events by Bolton Hindu forum, Bolton Christian Community Cohesion and Bolton Council of Mosques, vision conference, and many others.
Apart from those above, our two activities – faith trails and Bolton Interfaith Young Ambassadors (BIYA) have really reached a level beyond our belief and expectations. Faith trails – a totally supported project by our faith group partners, places of worships, volunteers and many others is something of real value in terms of community cohesion. We, co-ordinate 95 % of the faith trails which takes place. Almost 92% of these are requests from schools. The faith trails not just add value to the studies of RE but also enhances by actually seeing the place of faith, professionally presented and everyone is made welcome at each place. For the past three years, almost 4,500 people have participated in faith trails. That is fantastic achievement and is totally due to our excellent partnership working together.
Faith Trails is an excellent project- in terms of creating awareness, taking away the wrong perceptions and realizing the commonness that exists between many faiths in terms of having trust, compassion, empathy and respect amongst all human beings. To install such core values in young minds is vital for the long term interests of such a diverse society for the future. Through faith trails we are able to engage with schools, staff, many places of worships, members of clergy, community groups, professional organisations for training, volunteers and what is so important that it is co-ordinated to a common standard and assessed for its value and the manner in which it is delivered.
Many hundreds of pupils, staff and community people have given us many positive feed backs. Bolton is unique in this delivery and we should all value this project immensely for all the good it can provide in community relations.
BIYA- Bolton Interfaith Young Ambassadors group of almost 20 girls has very recently celebrated it's 6th anniversary. The group has doubled in last four months. Briefly speaking, we consider this work as "Thinking Outside the Box" project which aims to give young people of various faiths an opportunity to work, engage and participate together in many community events and activities held in Bolton and outside too. It is a project which aims for them to utilize their extra capacity by being more "worldly" and having good organisational, positive thinking, leadership and other skills through the good ethos of interfaith. This project is led on volunteering basis and a real flagship for BIC. I must say, with total honesty that I have learnt a lot from our young members with their commitment, knowledge, creativeness, enthusiasm and above all TRUST in myself and Anna Kinley who oversee the project. The support from parents, Emmanuel Church and funders is very much valued.
On behalf of BIC, I wish to acknowledge and appreciate the funding support from Bolton Council along with partnership working support from Bolton Hindu Forum, Bolton Council of Mosques, Bolton Christian Community Cohesion, Bolton CVS, Bolton At Home, Emmanuel Church, SACRE, Faith Leaders Forum, places of worship, Schools, Children's Services, Community & Voluntary Forum, Asian Elders, African Community Association of Bolton, Bolton Wanderers FC , Bolton Somali Community Association, Afro Caribbean Centre, Friends Meeting House , Swami Narayan Pipe Band, Salvation Army, Bolton News, GMP, Bolton Lads & Girls Club, Bolton Hospice, NHS, CCG, Interfaith Network ( UK ), British Red Cross, Fair Trade, University of Bolton, Bolton Community College ,Bolton Museum, Bolton Halwa Centre, and many others who contribute to our work.
During the end of the year, we are also co-ordinating donation collections in partnership with British Red Cross for the victims of the Philippines Typhoon.
I must not forget a set of special people – without whom we would not be able to perform – our Volunteers who show amazing commitment to the work of BIC. I am very fortunate in having excellent calibre of volunteers. I am also grateful to the guidance, support and commitment from our Executive Members who give up their time and do a lot of vital work behind the scene.
We hope through our joint team effort and good honest work ethic, we can make further progress on all our projects in the New Year of 2014. Please do visit our website for updates and all other information about our work.
If you have any suggestions or questions- please do contact me any time. Best wishes for the NEW YEAR to everyone and kind regards in peace.-

Chan Parmar
Bolton Interfaith Council
The Bolton Hub
Bold Street
Bolton, BL1 1LS
Phone: 01204 546110
Mob: 07533021028

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