On this page, you will find the latest articles from members and supporters of Interfaith Wolverhampton.

Group Photo outside MuseumImagining the Divine

On January 5th, Erik Pearse led a group of thirteen Inter-Faith folk on a trip to Oxford, to see the exhibition, Imagining the Divine, Art and the Rise of World Religions at the Ashmolean Museum.

The central idea of the exhibition is that although images of the divine in five of the world’s major religions seem so distinctive and different from each other now, in the first century, when ideas were being formed, there was much more similarity between them.

The exhibition shows how artists and craftspeople addressed the difficulties of how to portray something that cannot be seen. Artworks and artefacts from India to Ireland from Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam and Judaism were exhibited alongside maps illustrating how interconnected and how many opportunities there were for the meeting and exchange of ideas in the ancient world.

We were able to see how images familiar to us today have developed – our image of Christ as a bearded white man with flowing hair has evolved over time, early depictions show Christ as a youth, owing much to Roman depictions of divinities. Our image of Buddha as a well-rounded, seated figure has likewise evolved, early Buddhists would have been more familiar with just a hand or footprint of the Buddha.

The exhibition was a fascinating collection of statues, coins, ritual objects and early books. Almost the first thing a visitor sees is the Hinton floor mosaic showing a youthful Christ surrounded by domestic symbols and alongside the Greek monster-slaying hero Bellerophon. As with many of the exhibits, the mosaic gave us a moment to stop and think. There were many other highlights – fine early Qur’ans hand-lettered in gold on blue pages; the Jewish tombstone which a man called Pardos had made for his ten-year-old daughter, Sabina; the elegant drawings of the ten avatars of Vishnu, which stayed in the mind long after we left the exhibition. As one of those who queued outside Birmingham Art Gallery to see the Staffordshire Hoard when it was first discovered, it was interesting to see the folded gold cross from the Hoard on display with early gospels and coins.

There was much to reflect upon about this exhibition, not least to wonder how we imagine the divine.

After the exhibition, there was still plenty of time for us to see more of Oxford – Erik arranged a trip to Worcester College, his old college (of especial interest to Morse fans) and there was chance to visit the Church of St Mary the Virgin. This church was adopted as the University church at least as early as 1252. It has witnessed so much of the unfolding of the history of the Church of England. It was sobering to see the memorial tablet to the martyrs both protestant and catholic of the Reformation. A good reminder of the importance of dialogue and understanding between adherents of religious convictions, and to value occasions like these. As ever, there was much pleasure in having the time to talk to old friends and make new ones, to share ideas, stories and fellowship.

Thanks to Erik for organising such a good day and to David Belcher who guided us so expertly through Oxford.

Photo of Janusz Sochacki

Janusz Sochacki

Imagining the Divine was at the Ashmolean Museum until February 18th, 2018 ]

Organisations in Wolverhampton have signed a Faith Covenant to improve collaborative working between
the statutory and faith sectors in the City, and celebrate the latter's contribution to the local community.

Group Photo at Covenant Signing

The Faith Covenant was officially launched at an event on Tuesday December 12th, when
representatives from the council, InterFaith Wolverhampton, Wolverhampton Voluntary
Sector Council and other organisations formally signed a declaration of support.

Photo of Signed Covenant

The Covenant is a formal commitment between faith communities, statutory bodies such as the City of Wolverhampton Council and West Midlands Police, and key strategic partnerships like the Safer Wolverhampton Partnership, Wolverhampton Health and Wellbeing Board and the Wolverhampton Safeguarding Boards, to a set of principles that promote open, practical working on all levels.

It also formally recognises the immense contribution made by both the faith and non faith communities to the City of Wolverhampton, and reaffirms the commitment to work with the faith sector here.

Click HERE to read the text of the Covenant.

Click HERE to read the Wolverhampton City Council
website article about the Covenant.

Click HERE to read the background to the signing of the Wolverhampton Faith Covenant.

Parveen Brigue signing the Covenant

Parveen Brigue signing the Covenant on behalf of Interfaith Wolverhampton

Des Pearce, accompanied by Erik Pearse, successfully completed his 18-mile sponsored walk to Bratch Locks
and back on December 9th 2017, in a little under 5 hours, raising just over £900 for Interfaith Wolverhampton.

On Saturday October 14th, we were delighted to welcome several founder members to be present at the official presentation of the Queen's Award for Voluntary Service to Interfaith Wolverhampton - "The MBE for volunteer groups".

Photo of Award with 4 people

Deputy Lord Lieutenant Clive Stone DL, Chairperson Parveen Brique, Former Secretary Erik Pearse,
and West Midlands Mayor Andy Street

Click HERE to read the article on the local Express and Star newspaper website.

Photo of Whole Hall

Photo of Framed and Acrylic Awards

Former Interfaith Secretary Erik Pearse rounded off the proceedings with the following speech -

Photo of Parveen with Clive StoneThis prestigious QAVS award is the fruit of over 42 years work sparked off by concerned Wulfrunians' response to Enoch Powell’s, then MP for W’ton SW, ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech in 1968. Since then, Interfaith’s constant vision has been to ward off the Rivers of Blood which Enoch Powell imagined and turn them into rivers of clear water or, to adopt the title of our vice-President Sehdev Bismal’s highly evocative history of IFW, to build Bridges not Walls and to be, in a phrase coined by Clive Stone who is representing HM the Queen here tonight, the Conscience of Wolverhampton. There is no doubt that IFW has played a key role in moulding our City to be a relatively peaceful, exciting and happy place to live in, because of, and not in spite of, its multiplicity of faiths, races and cultures. In a way, we are privileged to have the world on our doorstep. Interfaith helps us to realise that it is a privilege, not a threat.

There have been several key individuals, faithful to the original vision to build a cohesive society, in our development over the years – many of these will have been awarded a medal tonight. I shall only single out two of these pioneers – The first is Harun Rashid who has been at the forefront of our activities throughout this time as a Founder Member, President, vice-President and Chair and still a Board member today. These titles would be meaningless if Harun had not been deeply engaged, frequently behind the scenes, in personally developing the vision and forwarding and widening the agenda of Interfaith, notably in his pioneering work as a senior Council Official. The Doctorate he received in 2012 from Wolverhampton University for his work in this field was amply merited.

Photo of Clive Stone and Erik PearseThe second person who cannot be forgotten on an occasion such as this is, of course, Ivy Gutridge who provided the guidance and inspiration of Interfaith for well over half its span of years. Nobody who knew her can forget the extraordinary warmth of her personality which so forcefully drove Interfaith in Wolverhampton (and way beyond in her role as vice-Chair of the national Interfaith Network and representative of the World Congress of Faiths). Her spirit is most definitely here with us tonight.

Photo of Erik and AnneThere is one other group of people I want to single out – they are the usually forgotten, self-effacing, behind-the-scenes people without whom nothing would effectively happen. You will of course have guessed that I am referring to our partners, wives or husbands. Personally I know that without my wife Anne’s constant and devoted, albeit sometimes exasperated, support, my life would have been a total mess.

I have been told to keep this short so will not dwell on the many achievements of IFW over the past 42 years and more. Most of you will already be familiar with them. If not, I warmly commend you to take, or if there are none left, order, a copy of Sehdev Bismal’s Building Bridges not Walls. They are free but you will I am sure wish to make a large donation for them in the customary donations bucket.

In relation to our past achievements, enough to say that we must have done some things right to merit
• being selected as one of the Mayor’s charities for several years in a row,
• drawing Prince Charles and his wife to Wolverhampton to celebrate our 40th anniversary and
• being presented with the prestigious Queen’s Award tonight.

Photo of Parveen and Yusuf ShafiBut what of the future?
I am confident that we will go from strength to strength.
Interfaith is well led. Parveen Brigue has abundantly shown her extraordinarily energetic commitment to Interfaith over the past year since she took over as Chair. No doubt she has been inspired by her father, who was one of the founding members of Interfaith. She is assisted by a group of committed Officers, including a new Secretary, Chris Collins, the Minister at Darlington Street Methodist Church from whom we rent our office, and a new Treasurer, Arshang Jahedi, thanks to whose wizardry and time we have a completely new computer system. We are also blessed with 2 part-time staff members – Mike and Devi – who have ceaselessly shown their commitment – way beyond their terms of employment - over the past few years.

Photo of long-standing membersNew initiatives to engage young people in our work on their own terms, through the social media, are at last beginning to take shape. If they are successful they will bring a whole new dimension to the interfaith movement in Wolverhampton, complementing the sterling work which we already do with schools.

I hope we will continue to develop our activities on two fronts – the practical and the spiritual.

On the practical side, by acting together in confronting the many issues which face us today – racism and bigotry, homelessness, slavery and lack of Sanctuary, climate change, arms sales – there are so many issues on which we need to work together more in our united quest for a more just and peaceful society – by acting together, by expressing time and again the positive values for which we stand, by further developing partnerships with key statutory and voluntary organisations in Wolverhampton, we become more united, more understanding, more respectful of our different traditions. 

Dr Satya SharmaBut if our activity is not nurtured by our spiritual development, it will fall to ashes – we have learned so much from each others’ faith traditions over the past four decades – spirituality – our spirit’s quest for the greater good - unites us in a profound way and we need to continue to explore this at ever deeper levels – it will give us the strength and resourcefulness to act purposefully.

Before I finish on this special presentation evening, a special thank you to Dr Satya Sharma, our Patron, without whose quiet but persistent pressure we might never have considered applying for this Award. Also to Clive Stone who gave us such contagiously enthusiastic support and help in refining our application the second time round to enable it to become successful. Thank you again to the Royal School for allowing us to host this event in this prestigious venue. Nor should we forget to thank our Chair, Parveen Brigue, for almost single-handedly organising tonight’s event.

Photo of Neville Platten and Clive StoneIf I were asked to encapsulate my vision of what Interfaith stands for, I would be brought back to Ivy Gutridge and her warm ever-welcoming hug. Many of you may not be ‘huggy’ people but I’m sure none of you could have resisted a hug from Ivy when you walked into her busy office. Her total availability the moment one entered the office and the hug by which she expressed this made it so clear that the most important thing was not paper, or power, or prestige, but people. May that continue to be the case.

Erik Pearse 13.10.17


Photo of Vegetarian Food for AllPhoto of Tim Fyffe and Inderjit Bhogal

Photo of Yusuf addressing everyone

The Bishop of Lichfield, the Right Revd Dr Michael Ipgrave, said of the award: “I am delighted that Interfaith Wolverhampton has received the Queen’s Voluntary Service Award.  It is a tremendous honour that recognises the hard work of many people of faith for over 40 years in promoting unity and understanding.  It is crucial that faith communities, including churches, work in partnership as we strive to transform our communities together.”

Photo of Mick Duthie

Church and Law Enforcement combatting Modern Slavery

At the Interfaith Wolverhampton AGM on Wednesday September 20th, speaker Mick Duthie, former Detective Chief Superintendent, and deputy director of the Santa Marta Group, spoke about their work worldwide to combat modern day slavery and human trafficking.

Copy of Powerpoint Indicators List

  Click HERE for a copy of his Powerpoint presentation.

Members of Interfaith Wolverhampton exhibited an "Interfaith Scarecrow" at the recent
Scarecrow Festival in Pattingham, September 22nd - 24th

Photo of Interfaith Scarecrow

Poster for honour based violence VigilInterfaith Wolverhampton was represented at a City Centre Vigil on Friday July 14th to remember the victims of "honour based violence".
This would have been the 31st birthday of Shafilea Ahmed, who was brutally murdered by her parents in 2003 in a so-called "honour killing";  Having refused an arranged marriage, her parents believed she had brought shame upon the family.

Anyone who has either been the victim of honour-based violence, or who fears someone may be at risk, should contact the Karma Nirvana UK helpline on 0800 599 9247, the Haven Wolverhampton on 01902 904677, or Wolverhampton Domestic Violence Forum on 01902 555643.  In an emergency, always dial 999.

A detailed account of the vigil with photo library should soon be available on the City Council news webpage: http://www.wolverhampton.gov.uk/news .

Remembering Srebrenica 2017

This year, on Tuesday July 11th, Srebrenica Memorial Day focussed on the suffering deliberately inflicted on
women and girls while Muslim men and boys were being massacred by Bosnian Serb forces in July 1995.

Photo of speakers at Srebrenica Memorial Event
Organised by Interfaith Wolverhampton, speakers included Sister Berry Vaughan,
Councillor Elias Mattu (Mayor of Wolverhampton), and Mrs Parveen Brigue. 

Photo of Participants

Between short periods of respectful silence, the Srebrenica flag was raised, and we listened to accounts of
women's experiences and their efforts to rebuild their lives.  After a final prayer and conclusion by Parveen,
the Mayor kindly invited us to come in from the increasing rain and take refreshments in the Mayor's Parlour.

Photo of Voluntary Service Award

On Tuesday June 13th 2017, Erik Pearse and Parveen Brigue, on behalf of Interfaith Wolverhampton,
accepted a Wolverhampton City Council 'Voluntary Service Award' at the Council's annual award ceremony at the Grand Theatre.
Also pictured is Sylvia Parkin, MBE, TD, JP, Deputy Lieutenant, who presented the award.  We understand that
we are to be one of seven Wolverhampton organisations to receive the Queen's Award for Voluntary Service this year.

Press Statement sent to the Express and Star on behalf of Interfaith Wolverhampton
and the Wolverhampton Council of Mosques, in the wake of the London atrocity.

As a voluntary organisation that seeks to bring about and maintain harmony between the differing faith communities of our great City we at Interfaith Wolverhampton and also the Wolverhampton Council of Mosques are sickened by the cowardly attack on ordinary people going about their lawful business in London this week. The actions of this despicable individual is condemned without any reservation whatsoever. This condemnation is the same view of every Gurdwara, Mandir, Synagogue and Vihara and Christian Church’s as well as those who do not practise any faith whatsoever in Wolverhampton. Indeed it is the view our nation.

The type of mindless fanatics who carry out such atrocities do not represent God or any decent minded Muslim let alone any other peaceful person of faith. They are a disgrace to Islam and their actions should in no way be seen as representative of what is a peaceful religion.

Decent minded people of faith and non are united in condemning this mindless atrocity that ultimately seeks to break the will of democracy so that perverted fundamentalist can inflict their unacceptable views on others.

At this very emotional time our thoughts and all our prayers, our support in whatever way we can is directed towards the families and friends of those who have lost loved ones.

As a democratic nation we need to do whatever we can to stop those who set out to radicalise and pervert the minds of others in order to pursue their distorted self-centred views. They will never, never succeed. The united people of faith and none of the United Kingdom and all democratic nations of the world will never let that happen. The God of all our faiths is a God of peace and love. What is done by these fanatics is done in their own self-centred distorted interpretations and most defiantly not the will of God.

On a note of gratitude we thank God for our wonderful public servants, Police, Ambulance, Hospitals and Fire services who give so unselfishly of themselves in our service. Often they are taken for granted, on occasions such as we have witnessed so graphically this week we see their real value. They are second to none.

On behalf of

Parveen Brigue (Mrs) Chair Interfaith Wolverhampton
Dr Yusuf Shafi Vice chair Interfaith Wolverhampton
Kahlid Akhtar Chair of the Wolverhampton Council of Mosques

Mike Shelley-Smith Interfaith Wolverhampton
Tel: 01902 427601
24 March 2017

Interfaith Participation in Stations of the Cross
On Sunday March 12th, St Thomas of Canterbury Church, Haywood Drive, Tettenhall, invited us to join them for Meditations on the events leading up to the execution of Jesus Christ (known as the "Stations of the Cross").

Photo of Congregation with Stations

The 14 different paintings (some seen above) illustrate 14 stages, or Stations, in Jesus’ final journey to His Cross,
from His appearance before Pontius Pilate who condemns Him to death, to his Crucifixion. 

The Stations of the Cross are a traditional, principally Catholic, service, held mainly during the period of Lent which precedes the Feast of Easter, when Christians commemorate the Resurrection of Jesus Christ after His death on the Cross.  "The 40 days of Lent remind us of the 40 days which the Gospels tell us Jesus spent fasting in the desert to prepare for the three years of His public life of healing and preaching".

There are innumerable versions in the wording of the Stations of the Cross service.  The version used here was based on one that was specially prepared by Cardinal Renato Corti at the request of Pope Francis for the annual Good Friday service, presided over by the Pope, in the Colisseum in Rome.  (Good Friday is the day of Jesus’ death on the Cross).

Sikh Speaker at the Lectern

One of many participants from Interfaith Wolverhampton

Interfaith Reception for new Church Leaders
On Thursday January 26th, Staff and Board Members of Interfaith Wolverhampton gave a warm welcome to Bishop Michael Ipgrave, the new Bishop of Lichfield, and to Revd Rachel Parkinson, new Chair of the Wolverhampton and Shrewsbury Methodist District.

Photo of Bishop Michael Speaking

Bishop Michael speaking of his past experience of Interfaith

              Revd Rachel Parkinson responding to a question

Revd Rachel ParkinsonSharing food from many cultures
Followed by sharing food from many cultures

Photograph of our Guests......Interrupted by the taking of a photograph of our guests.