Tuesday, 31 July 2012


This article appears in today's Leicester Mercury:

Carnival returning to streets
Caribbean carnival-goers will be back on parade this weekend.Last year, a lack of money meant organisers were unable to hold the procession through Leicester's streets.
But this year, they hope 100,000 people will watch its return or join the celebrations in Victoria Park.
The procession will go from the park to the Clock Tower, while people in the park can enjoy Caribbean specialities such as jerk chicken and listen to steel bands and calypso music.
Organiser Dennis "Sugar" Christopher said the music would reflect the carnival culture of the Caribbean and have more acts aimed at youngsters.
He said: "I've been listening to people who say the carnival does not cater for young people.
"So this year I've taken a leaf out of the book of the Olympics, where the opening ceremony had young people lighting the cauldron.
"On the park, we're going to have more youngsters performing as well as national and international acts and bands."
Many young people will also be among the 1,000 dancers taking part in the carnival procession, which will set off from Victoria Park at 1pm on Saturday and pass down London Road into the heart of the city and back up Gallowtree Gate.
London Road to the south of the park will remain shut throughout the procession, while temporary road closures will affect Granville Road, Northampton Street, Charles Street, Belgrave Gate and Granby Street.
However, the longer-term future of the carnival remains uncertain.Leicester City Council is reviewing how much money it contributes to the event.
The carnival costs about £200,000. The council is considering gradually reducing its contribution from £100,000 to about £60,000 in three years' time.
Mr Christopher said it was important the Caribbean Carnival continued as an annual event.
He said: "People enjoy the carnival – the procession, music, floats, costumes and performances.
"The University of Leicester did research last year and found a wide range of people come to the carnival.
"It also brings a lot of people to the city and helps businesses."The carnival brings serious wealth to Leicester.
"We've got to do a lot of fund-raising ourselves and there will be buckets on Saturday so we ask people to come along and to please give generously."
Councillor Piara Singh Clair, assistant city major for leisure, said: "There is a review going on but we are very keen to promote processions and activities like this in the city.
"I think we do need to keep it going.
"I've been the past couple of years and I'm looking forward to going again on Saturday."


This letter appears in today's Leicester Mercury (but not on its website):
Link to God is greatest reality
Chris Lymn (Mailbox, July 27) has written at length about the absurdity (as he sees it) of belief in God.
Belief in some kind of god may indeed be challenged by arguments, such as those he makes but, uniquely among religions, that is not the case with Christianity.
Why not? The fundamental issues that seems to escape so many who challenge Christianity is that Christianity is not simply about belief in the God of the Bible.
Christianity is about a relationship with God that follows from acting on the basis of belief in what he says about himself in the Bible.Many years ago, my girlfriend said that she loved me.
I believed her, and we are still enjoying that relationship.
A person becomes a Christian by an exactly equivalent process: belief followed by appropriate action.
Without that act of total commitment that results in an intimate personal relationship, a person who believes in the God of the Bible is not a Christian.
Even Chris Lymn must surely agree that it would be absurd for me to deny the fact that I am married.
Equally I cannot deny the fact of my personal relationship with God, a relationship that has mental, emotional and physical aspects no less real than those in my marriage.
That is why Christians down the ages have suffered martyrdom rather than deny the greatest reality of their loves.
David Adams, Oadby


This letter appears in today's Leicester Mercury (but not on its website):
No evidence of historical Jesus
Mark Jacques's puerile simile comparing the questioning of Christ's existence to being on the same level as a Holocaust denier (Mailbox, July 19) shows just how low he is prepared to sink when rubbishing anyone who dares to question the faith that he so obviously regards as undeniable fact.
The substantive evidence for the Holocaust - the gas chambers, the mass graves, the spoken and written testimony of the survivors, camp officers and guards - is beyond doubt.
There is no substantive evidence to prove that Christ ever existed.
The only thing to even suggest his existence are the stories written about him in the New Testament, which was not published until 400 years after his supposed death, by which time there was no one living to give eyewitness testimony anyway.
Throughout history, writers have chronicled the events of the places, people and events that tell humanity's story.
Strange, then, that contemporary historians living in the places where Christ is said to have lived, preached and travelled, mention nothing of his existence, let alone the effect that his actions are said to have had in riling the authorities of the time leading up to his crucifixion.
When the Christian theologian and writer F W Farrah (1831-1903) read through these writings, he expressed his surprise and dismay when he wrote: "There is no statement in all history that says anyone ever saw Jesus or talked with him.
"Nothing in history is more astonishing than the silence of contemporary writers of contemporary writers about events relayed in the four Gospels."
Astonishing? I'll say it is.
If Jesus did walk among us and had the impact on society as described in the Bible, and a historian of that time had not acknowledged it, it would be like a modern historian writing a comprehensive biographical account of British Prime Ministers of the 20th century and totally failing to include Margaret Thatcher and the impact she had on world politics in the 1980s. It just couldn't happen.
Alan R Pendragon, Leicester


This letter appears in today's Leicester Mercury (but not on its website):
Rationalist needs more than belief
Peter Anderson, in his letter ("God's existence not disproved", Mailbox, July 16) seems to have misread or misinterpreted my letter of July 3 regarding the questionable existence of a supreme deity.
He writes of a sweeping statment I allegedly made about science disproving the Bible and Christianity.
I never used the word science in any sentence or paragraph in the whole of my letter.
Also, Mr Anderson has completely side-stepped the challenge which I made.
I asked for absolutely irrefutable evidence of God's existence but this issue seems to have been evaded.
No such proof will ever be forthcoming. Why? Because no one can prove the existence of an incorporeal and imaginary being - quite simply, a non-entity.
Any god is a product of man's imagination, an easy way of explaining the wonders of the Earth and the universe.
However, any person who is capable of truly rational thinking will need much more than ill-founded traditional beliefs to rely on.
FO Hipwell, Wigston


This letter appears in today's Leicester Mercury (but not on its website):
Faith and facts are not the same
Mr Jacques is quite right (July 19), Holocaust deniers peddle their argument when they and everybody else know it is untrue.
They do it because they are politically-motivated racists who think that if they say it often enough ignorant people with no other source of information or the same prejudice will believe it.
Where Mr Jacques's argument falls down is that, by his own admission, the stories he points to are built on faith. They are a belief, no doubt strongly held, but they are not irrefutable fact.
They may be true, we cannot say one way or the other and, as he states, he has the right to "express an opinion openly, however outlandish it may be".
But he has no right to compare messrs Pendragon and Hipwell (June 29, July 3) to Holocaust deniers and he should apologise.
If you will allow me to be pedantic, the prefix "so-called" is usually applied when the writer does not agree with the accusation.
I am sure this is not the case with Mr Jacques.
Callum Collier, Leicester


This letter appears in today's Leicester Mercury:
Let's build first Asian mall
The frequent occurrence of often violent robberies in the Golden Mile and the impending improvements to reduce them will probably eventually result in the area becoming a pedestrian-only zone.
Is there another solution to this problem which, at the same time, gives the city a major tourist attraction?
Shortly, Sainsbury's is leaving its present position and moving to the site once occupied by Thorn Lighting, while the present site will probably be made into smaller units.
Could not – with a lot of thought, discussion, investigation and negotiation – traders turn the vacated property into the first Asian shopping mall in the UK and, possibly, Europe?
The mall would have an area for a restaurant that would supply all types of Asian cuisine and an area separated from the main hall to accommodate insurance brokers, solicitors, financial advisers, travel agents – probably including the visa office secured by Keith Vaz.
It could become a fully comprehensive area for the Asian community.
One of the biggest problems with the Golden Mile is the lack of parking.
This would be solved, as there is a large car park.
Another problem is security, which again could be an improvement on the present situation.
Obviously, the financial side would have to be considered, but even that could be helped by applying for various sources such as the Lottery Fund, the Portas Fund – even the council could help.
There are a lot of Asian entrepreneurs who might even be interested in entering negotiations with Sainsbury's.
Perhaps Ratilal Govins would consider discussing such a proposition, its feasibility and its potential as a tourist attraction, as, apart from Leicester, there are many other areas with large numbers of Asians who would welcome such a project and could become regular visitors to the centre.
Perhaps Mr Vaz would lend his support to such a project.
If it did cause any problems, perhaps the Gandhi statue could be re-sited in the hall or in the entrance to the mall.
If it did not offend, perhaps it could named the Gandhi Centre.
Mr G Wainwright, Oadby

Monday, 30 July 2012


This article appears in today's Leicester Mercury:

Hare Krishna festival of chariots is highlight of oldest street festival
Thousands of devotees pulled a huge chariot through the city yesterday to celebrate the world's oldest street festival.
Dancers, drummers and flag wavers led the Hare Krishna Festival of Chariots from Cossington Street, in Belgrave, to a huge party at Leicester's Town Hall Square.
The 15th annual Ratha-yatra festival was staged by the International Society for Krishna Consciousness.
Devotees, who usually start in Humberstone Gate and finish in Belgrave, were forced to reverse their procession, due to waterlogged ground at Cossington Street Park.
Pradyumna Dasa, president of the group's new temple in Granby Street, Leicester, said: "Though it was never our plan to move the festival, it seems to us that Krishna's plan is to go towards his new home in the centre of the city."
For the Jethwa family from Syston, it was a perfect opportunity to celebrate their Hindu faith together.
Dad Jit, 41, said: "It is important that our children learn about our festivals.
"We are all born and bred in Leicester, a multi-cultural city that allows us to celebrate our culture and beliefs. It's fantastic."
Daughter Devi, eight, said: "My favourite part is the singing and the food."
Sister Bhavani, 11, said: "We have had a really nice day. I like watching it all pass us."
The procession featured a 40-foot chariot, which carried representations of Lord Jagannatha (Krishna) and his siblings, Lady Subhadra and Lord Balarama.
Work colleagues Siva Narayanasamy, 27, and Vimal Srinivasan, 30, watched the procession gather in Gallowtree Gate.
Siva, who lives in the city, said: "I'm really impressed by the size of the chariot. It's like being in India."
Vimal, also from the city, said: "It really gives you a divine feeling when we share our religion across the city. It sends such a good message."
For Lalita Dasi, from Groby, it was also a chance to catch up with friends and family.
The 53-year-old said: "You end up bumping into people you haven't seen since last year."
The procession ended with a party at the town hall, with dance and yoga displays, singing and vegetarian food.

The photo above shows the Chariot on Belgrave Gate, heading into the city centre, with the lifesize statue in the foreground. Photo by Kiran Parmar, sourced with permission.

Saturday, 28 July 2012


This article appears in today's Leicester Mercury:
Woman arrested in graffiti probe
A 55-year-old woman has been arrested in connection with an incident in which anti-religious slogans were painted on the walls of a church.
As reported in the Mercury yesterday, the slogans, containing offensive words, were painted on three outside walls of the Central Avenue Christian Church, in Wigston, between Wednesday night and Thursday morning.
The woman has been released on police bail.


This letter appears in today's Leicester Mercury:
Demeaning faith not an argument
FO Hipwell's letter (Mailbox July 3) appears to seek evidence of existence of God and fails to note that religion is 'a faith or belief' not 'a fact'.
Atheism is neither a religion nor an ideology or a doctrine. It is a-theism, ie lack of religious faith. It does not present any system of ideas, nor does it promise any salvation. In this sense it is a "negative" or "impoverished" stance.
Of course, spirituality in the intellectual, cultural, or moral sense is common to believers and non-believers in various degrees.
By way of illustration, I would say that very many survivors of the atrocious conditions in Russian death camps, both in the 1930s and during the Second World War, have stated that only religion made them hold the very strong belief that there would be an end to their suffering – and their belief resulted in their survival.
In their opinion, lack of faith would have resulted in their deaths.
Religion is also a part of our Christian culture.
If, as is suggested, religion is a myth, what is one to do when one studies the biographies of Pythagoras, Galena (accused of witchcraft because he was a successful doctor), Averroes (logic in Islamic philosophy), Paracelsus, Leonardo da Vinci, Erasmus (a famous free thinker), Newton, Goethe….? They all declared their faith in God. As did many a poet, composer and sculptor.
What are we to do with the works of these famous people in a secular world?
Already children know very little about these people and many other historical figures.
When asked, they look blankly at you and ask 'You what?"
Knowledge of Shakespeare's religion is important in understanding the man and his works, because of the wealth of biblical and liturgical allusions in his writings.
Demeaning people of faith does not advance Mr Hipwell's argument. One can only sympathise with his own "personal experiences" which led him to hold his current views.
Michael Myers, Leicester

Friday, 27 July 2012


Regular update on the number of pageviews received from different parts of the world in the week just ending.

  1. United Kingdom 578
  2. United States 366
  3. Russia 361
  4. France 158
  5. Canada 107
  6. Spain 90
  7. India 90
  8. Germany 56
  9. Poland 43
  10. Ukraine 21

This week's total: 1,850 (last week: 1,994). These are aggregates of figures from the top ten countries only. Blogger's stats software doesn't show me numbers of pageviews below the tenth-ranking country.

The world map at the top of this post is the graphic that I see on the stats page. The darker the green, the more pageviews from that country. I can see different versions of that map for "now" (i.e. in the last two hours), "today", "this week", "this month" and "all time". They're updated each time I look at them.


This article appears in today's Leicester Mercury:

Vandals paint offensive slogans on Wigston church walls
Vandals have daubed anti-religious slogans over a church and community centre.
Officials at Central Avenue Christian Church, in Wigston, discovered the crude messages yesterday and its minister and volunteers spent the day trying to wash the graffiti off the walls using a high-pressure hose.
The slogans were painted on the front and side walls of the building in 9in-high letters.
Minister the Rev Alan Robinson, said: "The slogans were not very nice stuff, but we don't believe they were particularly aimed at our church, they were more against the Church in general.
"There are an awful lot of people who don't believe in God and don't think anyone else should either.
"I don't know how long it will take to get rid of.
"A police officer who came to investigate was going to ask if Oadby and Wigston Borough Council could help us remove it using its equipment.
"The police are very concerned and they took away a lid from the tin of paint which had been left behind.
"It's the first time we've had any problems such as this since we bought the building in about 1990.
"We demolished most of the building and rebuilt it as a church and community centre using voluntary labour."
From Monday to Friday, Central Avenue Community Link works with the church to operate a day centre for people with learning difficulties.
Mr Robinson said: "We help about 30 people aged from 25 to 50 and above with handicrafts, outings and computers.
"We are still running – this won't stop us.
"We're just about to start a drop-in centre on Tuesdays for anyone of any age who is lonely – because there is so much loneliness in the community.
"We have about 30 members but we are very active and very much involved with the community.
"We do more in the community than a lot of the larger churches."
Mr Robinson, who is one of two ministers at the church, said: "Whoever has done this hasn't just attacked the church, they've attacked the hub of the community as well."
A Leicestershire Police spokeswoman said: "Offensive words were painted on to the wall in Central Avenue some time between 6.50pm yesterday and 7.10am today.
"Anyone with any information about the incident or who may be responsible is asked to contact us."
The police can contacted on 101 or call Crimestoppers on 0800 555111


This letter appears in today's Leicester Mercury:
Religions face an inevitable decline
The never-ending debate around religion and its influence has been well aired in these columns. Recently, F O Hipwell (July 3) and Peter Anderson (July 16) represented different ends of the spectrum of opinion.
In one sense it is pointless to suggest to believers that they are misguided or delusional.
As Mr Anderson made clear, he is not really interested in asking, or being asked, questions as he already has the answers.
He repeats the latest of the rebuttals of science by suggesting that it is a narrow approach, which is true, and neither does it ask the question why?
This is mistaken as this question, based on mankind's innate curiosity, is at the root of science.
He also claims that science does not disprove God's existence.
It has never claimed to have done so, but increased knowledge has dealt body blows to much of what was once regarded as beyond explanation.
Neither is it the task of non-believers to disprove it.
On the other hand, it is easy for atheists to mock the various tenets of religious belief.
One prominent author has written a series of popular books doing just that. His conclusions are valid but mocking believers as simpletons is poor reasoning because it avoids the need for real analysis. To really undermine religious belief it is necessary to examine how it came about and why it still exerts power on parts of humankind.
At root, the question to be asked is does human consciousness determine life or does material life determine consciousness?
The only logical answer must be that consciousness is determined by life's material factors.
The first and foremost needs to eat, be clothed and find warmth and shelter had to be met before such social elements as politics, art, science, morality and, yes, religion could be developed.
So religion, like art and morality has to be regarded as a human construct which was felt to provide some answers to life's fundamental questions.
The consciousness which developed has given us the ability, unique to humans, to analyse the past and has revealed that religions derived from the widely diffuse material circumstances in different parts of the populated world, as discovered by the missionary movement.
It is both a reaction to, and a development of, human experience and, as we learn, develop and benefit from this experience, religion will gradually become less an influence on real material life.
Already the most developed parts of the world have seen a reduction of its influence as social answers have been developed to meet the challenges of life.
Real living experience and an ever-increasing knowledge base has shown that we as a race are capable of prioritising and affecting our areas of concern.
As a result, what remains of religious belief will appear increasingly less necessary to human development.
There will be fundamentalist groups which refuse to recognise this and adopt increasingly bizarre positions by clinging to outdated dogma, whether in the middle east, Rome or America's south.
Their backward-looking views will only delay their inevitable demise.
Chris Lymn, Oadby


This article appears in today's Leicester Mercury:

Temple plan for historic site
An historic building in the heart of the St George Conservation Area in Leicester could become a place of worship.
The city council has received a licensing inquiry about the empty Edwardian Guild for the Disabled building, in Colton Street, from the Shri Shirdi Baba Temple Association, an international religious organisation.
Leaders would like to use the Grade II-listed building, which is on English Heritage's "at risk" list, as a temple and meeting place.
Darshan Singh Nagi is chairman of the Shri Shirdi Baba Temple Association, which has a UK base in Wembley, north London.
He said: "We are in the process of signing a lease with the owners but want to be sure that it would be okay to use the building for worship.
"That's why we have applied to the council for a certificate for this purpose."
The temple association takes its name from Indian holy man and deity Sai Baba, of Shirdi, a village near Mumbai, who preached peace, charity and harmony under one god.
Mr Singh said: "He was well known for performing miracles and although his millions of devotees worldwide observe a loosely Hindu tradition, he is revered by Sikhs, Muslims, Christians and Hindus alike.
"The hall would be used by our followers in Leicester and all people would be welcome."
Built in 1909 by city architects A and T E Sawday, the building, now called the Charles Venue, was the first in Britain, and possibly the world, to be designed for people with disabilities, complete with wheelchair access. Listed by English Heritage in 1992, it has been empty since 2000, when disabled charity Mosaic moved to new headquarters.
The city council refused a licensing application last year by Belgrave developer Ashik Madlani – who wanted to use it to stage plays, films, wrestling, live music and dance events – after concerns were raised by residents over noise disturbance.
"Our use would be a very quiet and peaceful one," said Mr Singh.
"We would like to breath new life into this truly beautiful and historic building so that the people of Leicester can be proud of it once again."
Graham Lees, spokesman for the Leicester Victorian Society, said: "When a lovely building like this is left empty for too long it is a big concern to us.
"It is far better for it to cared for and maintained while being used in an appropriate way."
A Leicester City Council spokesperson said: "The application is for a Certificate of Proposed Lawful Use.
"This process allows the applicant to ask for the council's legal opinion as to whether or not the Guild for the Disabled can be used as a place of worship without the need for planning permission.
"Current planning legislation allows for the grouping of similar uses in one category. A training centre and place of worship would fall within the same group.
"A change between uses within the same group will not normally require planning permission.
"We are undertaking research into the history of the site to identify if the building can be used as a place of worship without the need for further planning permission.
"Any related alterations to the building would still need planning permission."

Thursday, 26 July 2012


The Grand Hall in St Martins House is the venue for this conference, concluding the first phase of the University of Leicester's Mapping Faith and Place project. I haven't been in the Grand Hall before, but it's a setting that lives up to its name, one fit for a queen. Literally, in this case, as HM Queen Elizabeth II was served lunch here on her recent visit to Leicester which kicked off her Diamond Jubilee Celebrations. Some of those attending today were guests on that occasion.

Deirdre O'Sullivan (Lecturer in Medieaval Archaeology at the University of Leicester) welcomes attendees and introduces the project. The rest of the day is taken up with a number of presentations:
Heritage and Multi-Faith in Leicester, Canon Dr John Hall, Director, St Philip's Centre for Study andEngagement in a Multi-Faith Society
English Heritage Policy on Faith Buildings, Dr Lind Monckton, English Heritage
History and Interpretation, Surinderpal Rai, Chair, Guru Tegh Bahadur Gurdwara
Leicester Perspective, CllrManjula Sood, Assistant Mayor (and Chair, Leicester Council of Faiths)
Jain Heritage in Leicester, Dr Atul Shah, CEO, Diverse Ethics
The Church of St Mary de Castro: a Document in our Midst, David Lamb, St Mary de Castro
An Archaelogical Approach to Understanding Religious Buildings, Neil Finn, Archaeological Consultant
The Story of Leicester, Sarah Levitt, Leicester City Council Arts and Museums Service

An interesting variety of presentations, to be sure, but it wouldn't be unfair to say that they're something of a mixed bag. Although the conference is sponsored by the University of Leicester, it's not, strictly speaking, an academic occasion, so it would be wrong to hold all the contributions to the kind of rigorous standard. Let's just say that the standards of preparation and delivery vary today.

Mapping Faith and Place in Leicester has been funded by the Art and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) within their funding stream, "Care for the Future: Thinking Forward Through the Past". After the end of this initial period of funding, the project moves into a new phase, focusing on the past, present and future uses of one faith-related site in particular: Guru Tegh Bahadur Gurdwara on East Park Road.

The Council of Faiths has lent a hand at various stages of the Mapping Faith and Place in Leicester project (although if we'd grasped how significant it is, we'd surely have done more to help). I've posted entries about the launch event in October 2011 and the first, second and third seminars for the project in this blog. We borrowed the project's pop-up banners for our display at Highcross during Inter Faith Week 2011, when we also distributed many copies of the Leicester Faith Trail booklet (the second, updated edition of which is published today). Members of staff Deirdre O'Sullivan and Dr Ruth Young (Senior Lecturer in Archaeology and Director of Distance Learning Strategy) and students from the School of Archaeology and Ancient History took part in that exhibition. There are several members of the Council of Faiths here today and, of course, our Chair, Cllr Manjula Sood, is one of the platform speakers. But I can't help wishing we'd been able to make a more formal presentation. There were some questions from the floor about inter-faith issues in Leicester that some of the platform speakers were unable to answer, that would have surely been part of a proper presentation by the Council of Faiths (regarding consultation with the city's decision-making bodies, for example).

I've enjoyed being involved in this project. It's opened some doors for me and introduced me to some good people I might otherwise never have met. I hope that I (and Leicester Council of Faiths) can play an active part in the project's future development and even find new ways to contribute and collaborate.

As I do at the end of all my blog posts referring to St Martins House, I refer any reader wondering about the omission of the possessive apostrophe from the building's name to a letter from Rev. Peter Hobson, Director of St Martins House, published in the Leicester Mercury, 29 March 2011.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012


This article appears in today's Leicester Mercury:

Jesus the "mighty prophet"
A mosque is to stage a play about the lives of Jesus and Mary.
Worshippers from Leicester's Muslim Khoja Shia Ithna Asheri Community are to stage the interfaith production to highlight the similarities between Islam and Christianity.
Jesus is a central figure in the Koran, in which he is known as Isa, and is revered as a major prophet fabled for his miracles, just as he is in the Bible.
The play will be performed at mosque in Duxbury Road, New Humberstone, Leicester.
The religious production is being put on as part of an inter-faith day of fasting during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
People wanting to attend the event from 7pm on Saturday, August 4, can either give up food and water during daylight hours, as most Muslims do, or just give up a treat.
Secretary of the organising group Ali Abbas Panju said: "Along with being the month of prayer, fasting and other benefits, Ramadan is also the month of unity.
"We are requesting that all attendees keep a one-day fast for the purpose of attaining closeness to God.
"The fast may be a fruit fast, a water fast, simply keeping away from something enjoyable for one day, or giving up a bad habit consciously for just one day."
The 40-minute play, called The Fast of Maryam and Isa, will be shown twice and focus on Jesus fasting in the wilderness for 40 days and 40 nights.
Suleman Nagdi, of the Federation of Muslim Organisations in Leicestershire, said: "Christianity, Islam and Judaism are all based on the same early texts and the only real difference between Christians and Muslims is that Jesus is not seen as the literal son of God in Islam, but as a mighty prophet who performed miracles.
"There are 24 mentions of Jesus in the Koran and a whole passage about his mother Mary.
"A lot of people are unaware of how important they are.
"The play has been chosen as it highlights these similarities and a devout Christian would be comfortable with the play.
"There are parts of the world where there are difficulties but there are also parts where Muslims and Christians work very closely together.
Christians and Jews are all considered 'people of the book' within Islam, following religions with the same message."
Manjula Sood, chair of the Leicester Council of Faiths, will be attending the event.
She said: "I think it's very helpful to celebrate the commonalities as well as the differences between the faiths.
"Judaism, Christianity and Islam have so many similarities and it's good to get together and remember the goodness of all faiths and the message of peace and harmony they share.
"Our ability to celebrate one another's faiths is a great strength of our city."
To reserve a place at the event, e-mail: secretary.mksi@gmail.com

Saturday, 21 July 2012


This article appears in today's Leicester Mercury:

Book reflects diversity of neighbourhood
A book about one of the city's most diverse neighbourhoods has been launched.
We Are South Highfields includes accounts of nearly 100 people from dozens of different nationalities who have lived in the area.
The book, funded by the Church Urban Fund Near Neighbours project, was launched at St Peter's Community Centre in Highfields, Leicester.
Editor Penny Walker said: "It was a brilliant evening and the community centre was packed out.
"South Highfields has been the place for people to come to first and a lot of Ugandan Asians moved to this area in the 1970s. A lot of the Afro-Caribbeans in Leicester still regard it as a sort of spiritual home.
"I live here and it's a wonderful area. The book gives you the backgrounds of the people and encompasses a wide range of ages and nationalities."
Copies of the book, costing £7.50, are available by calling 0116 319 9487.


This article (regarding the conference rounding off the University of Leicester's Mapping Faith and Place project) appears in today's Leicester Mercury:
Considering worship
Places of worship will be the subject of a conference next week.St Martin's House, in Peacock Lane, Leicester, will host the event, which runs from 9.30am to 4pm on Thursday.
There will be guest speakers from faith groups, English Heritage, Leicester City Council and the University of Leicester, and a chance to debate the role of faith buildings.
For more details, call Heather Lomas on 0116 270 0386.

Friday, 20 July 2012


Regular update on the number of pageviews received from different parts of the world in the week just ending.

  1. United Kingdom 724
  2. United States 414
  3. Russia 356
  4. Canada 135
  5. France 136
  6. India 82
  7. Germany 47
  8. Poland 35
  9. Australia 30
  10. China 25

This week's total: 1,994 (last week: 1,816). These are aggregates of figures from the top ten countries only. Blogger's stats software doesn't show me numbers of pageviews below the tenth-ranking country.

The world map at the top of this post is the graphic that I see on the stats page. The darker the green, the more pageviews from that country. I can see different versions of that map for "now" (i.e. in the last two hours), "today", "this week", "this month" and "all time". They're updated each time I look at them.


At Southfields Library (AKA "Pork Pie Library") this afternoon for one of Global Education Leicester-Shire's celebrated Strawberry Teas. These are known far and wide as jolly liitle affairs, but there's mixed feelings at this one. It's a farewell do for Clare Carr, Schools Worker at GELS and one of its two part-time employees (on the left in the photo above, with Claire Plumb, Development Worker at GELS).

For the past eight years Clare has been a mainstay of Global Education Leicester-Shire and its predecessor, East Midlands Network for Global Perspectives in Schools (EMNGPS) Leicester and Leicestershire Locality Group. She's also been a leading proponent of Philosophy for Children (P4C) and Fairtrade initiatives throughout the city and county and is currently one of two joint co-ordinators for Philosophy in Pubs in Leicester.

Many of the people here today have given their support to GELS, EMNGPS (and directly or indirectly, Leicester Council of Faiths) in helping broaden the horizons of children, teachers, families and communities. We've done a lot of good work together over the years and it saddens me to think that this may be the last time many of us will be in the same room together. Still, there's little time for that, as we join in the party fun, including pass the parcel (photo below). And of course, the food is delightful, featuring virtually every edible use of strawberries than you could imagine!

Clare is moving on to a job based in one of the city's schools, starting at the end of August. Those who recognise and appreciate the contribution she's made to the current good name of Leicester Council of Faiths - either by her own direct efforts or by supporting mine - will wish her well in her new post.

Thursday, 19 July 2012


This letter appears in today's Leicester Mercury:
Making a case by simple denial
When I read the recent letters from Messrs Pendragon and Hipwell, querying the very existence of Jesus Christ, two reactions came immediately to my mind. The first was how lucky we all are to have sufficient freedom in this country, to be able to express an opinion openly, however, outlandish it may be.
The second was to draw a comparison with so-called Holocaust deniers: these people claim that the Holocaust of the gas-chambers of the Second World War and associated atrocities never happened – even though it is perfectly clear they did. This is one way of making your case: pretending that the subject in question never existed!
Mark W Jacques OP, Quorn


This letter appears in today's Leicester Mercury:
Promise over faith symbols
I am pleased that the Prime Minister said that the Government will back the right to display a symbol of faith in the workplace.
He also said that the Government will change the law if that is necessary so that employees can wear religious symbols at work.
The way Ms Nadia Eweida was treated by British Airways because she refused to hide or remove a necklace that had a cross on it was a disgrace.
Also, the story of Shirley Chaplin, a nurse, who was banned by the Royal Devon & Exeter NHS Trust from working on the wards because she refused to hide a necklace with a cross on it, was a disgrace.
They have taken their cases to the European Court of Human Rights and the cases will be heard at Strasbourg in September.
However, the Government's lawyers are resisting the appeal.It should be acceptable that people of all faiths should be allowed to wear symbols of faith in the workplace.
So I am hoping that the Prime Minister will stick to his promise.
Kevin Fletcher

Wednesday, 18 July 2012


This article appears in today's Leicester Mercury:
Acclaimed exhibition comes to city
An exhibition about religious tolerance which is touring European cities has come to Leicester.
The St Philip's Centre, in Evington, is hosting the "Religious Tolerance – Islam" in the Sultanate of Oman exhibition.
Leicester is the next stop on the tour after the exhibition visited Madrid.
Riaz Ravat, deputy director at the centre, said: "It is a great coup for us to be selected to host this exhibition."
The exhibition details how in Oman, which is a predominately Muslim country, the rights of minorities such as Buddhists, Christians, Hindus and Jews are guaranteed by the state.
The Rev Canon Dr John Hall, director of St Philip's Centre, said: "We are proud and honoured to be hosting this exhibition."
The exhibition, which is free, is being staged in St Philip's Church at the centre in Evington Road, Evington, from 10am until 4pm up to and including this Friday.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012


This letter appears in today's Leicester Mercury:
Consider Tolstoy for illumination
With reference to F O Hipwell's letter (Mailbox, July 3), I recommend that he reads part two of Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace, in which he debates the nature of power and whether there is a deity.
He states that if the will of every man were free, all history would be a series of disconnected accidents.
People with expanded awareness, such as writers, have given their interpretations of the mysteries of life, but all experiences are those of one individual – i.e. "two men looked through prison bars, one saw mud and one saw stars".
Shakespeare covers life in all its facets in his plays and sonnets. "There are more things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy." (Hamlet)
Wordsworth comes to the conclusion "And I have felt a presence that disturbs me with the joy of elevated thoughts, a sense of sublime, of something for more deeply interfused." (Above Tintern Abbey)
In searching for the God particle, may research bring answers.
Maureen Harrison, Broughton Astle

Monday, 16 July 2012


This letter appears in today's Leicester Mercury:
God's existence not disproved
The letter from FO Hipwell ('Offensive, but I'd go further', Mailbox, July 3) makes the sweeping statement that science has disproved both the Bible and Christianity.
But my question to him would be: "How does science do this?"
I have just been reading a book by Dr Steve Taylor, a senior researcher and lecturer at Liverpool University, in which he says: "Science is limited in scope and usually asks the questions 'what? and how? But, not usually, 'why?'"
Science is also empirical – it is based upon observation and experiment and so does not usually consider things that are not open to testing.
Therefore, science does not disprove, indeed cannot disprove the existence of God, nor the events recorded in the Bible.
To establish the truth of those things, we must turn to other methods for proof, such as the witness of eyewitnesses and personal experience.
In the Bible, the four Gospels provide eyewitness accounts of the life, teachings, miracles, death and resurrection of the central figure of human history, Jesus Christ.
It is He who divides time into two (AD and BC) and it is He from whom today's date is taken.
There are more books about Him, more songs to Him, and more people who claim to follow Him today than any other person in history.
The Bible is now in 3,000 languages and it still the world's best-selling book.
All over the world, there are thousands of people, young and old and from very different cultures, who have discovered that being a Christian and believing the Bible is not being "gullible".
I became a Christian when I was 19 and doing my National Army service in Singapore. It was in a Chinese church one Easter Monday and a big part in how this happened was by reading the New Testament for myself.
Over many years, I have travelled to many parts of the world and produced 18 missionary documentary films on the impact of the Christian gospel from the Amazon Basin, Africa and even Papua New Guinea.
The Bible and Christianity are very much alive with the largest growth in mainland China, estimated to be in the region of 70 to 90 million, more than the total population of Great Britain!
No, I don't think that God believes in atheists, but He does love them.
Peter Anderson, Leicester