Monday, 31 December 2012

MUSLIMS IN CITY PARADE

This article appears in today's Leicester Mercury:

Muslims in city parade
Hundreds of Muslims joined a procession through Leicester yesterday to mourn the murder of relatives of the Prophet Mohammed.
Worshippers gathered at the Majid-al-Husayn mosque in Duxbury Street, Spinney Hills, and walked around nearby streets while praying and commemorating The Prophet's grandson Imam Husayn, who was slain in the year 680.
Mosque spokesman Burket Ali Walji said: "The slaying of Husayn is the most tragic event in the history of Islam. He was an opponent of an oppressive, brutal caliph and represented tolerance, truth and justice.
"He was chased by the caliph's army into the deserts of Karbal in Iraq and murdered along with his own family and companions. His message is one that is inherently felt by all mankind regardless of their race or creed. That is why we mark his death every year."

Saturday, 29 December 2012

CATHEDRAL GARDENS REVAMP CRITICISED BY HERITAGE GROUP

This article appears in today's Leicester Mercury:
Cathedral gardens revamp criticised by heritage group
English Heritage has raised concerns about £3 million plans to revamp the area outside Leicester Cathedral.
The heritage watchdog says it is unhappy with elements of the Cathedral Gardens project and has joined the Leicester Civic Society in voicing misgivings about the scheme.
Church leaders say they want to create a worthy setting for the 12th-century building, in St Martin's, and an attractive public space.
However, English Heritage has looked at details of the scheme and, though it supports the principle, it says it cannot support it in its current form.
In a letter to Leicester City Council planning officers, its historic building adviser, Helen Ensor, said: "Overall, we see the potential for intervention into this now tired-looking space and the opportunity to create a fitting and functional new forecourt to the cathedral.
"However, we cannot fully support the scheme at this stage and would welcome the opportunity to advise further.
English Heritage opposes the removal of listed railings along the boundary of St Martin's House and St Martin's Lane West as well as the use of Roman-style paving stones.
It has also objected to the removal of headstones.
Ms Ensor said: "Not only are they fine and interesting sculptural elements which point to the cathedral's past as a medieval parish church, but they also represent the life and death of the people who have worshipped here and must be considered as important to the social history of the church and city."
As previously reported in the Mercury, the civic society opposes plans to reduce the height of a grade II-listed Tudor wall, which dates back to 1519, and was part of the Wyggeston Hospital.
It also objects to the alterations to another grade II-listed wall from 1757 which will be reduced in height from eight feet to 16 inches and have an opening created to allow access to the cathedral visitor centre.
It says these will be a loss of historic fabric that has not been justified.
Civic society chairman Stuart Bailey did, however, say the designs for the area were generally of a high quality.
Nobody from the Diocese of Leicester was available for comment yesterday, but the Bishop of Leicester, the Rt Rev Tim Stevens, has previously said: "Work has been going on to develop proposals for a new Cathedral Gardens space, uniting the current cathedral precincts and St Martin's House grounds to provide not only a more fitting setting for our cathedral, but also a safe and beautiful garden space at the heart of our city for all its residents and visitors."

THREE ARRESTED IN LEICESTER AFTER PIG'S HEAD FOUND BY MUSLIM PRAYER GROUP

This article appears in today's Leicester Mercury:
Three arrested in Leicester after pig's head fond by Muslim prayer group
A woman and two men have been arrested after a pig's head was found on the doorstep of a community centre used by Muslim worshippers.
The severed head was discovered at the Thurnby Lodge Community Centre on Boxing Day by members of As Salaam - a Muslim group which uses the building for religious purposes.
It was found at about 7.30am when worshippers arrived at the centre, in Thurncourt Road, to open up for prayers.
Police said they are treating the incident as being religiously motivated.
The gesture could be seen as an insult as Muslims are forbidden from eating pork and many consider pigs to be unclean animals.
Earlier today, police arrested a 40-year-old woman and two men aged 37 and 46 in connection with the investigation.
It follows a recent row over As Salaam's desire to use a nearby former Scout hut for prayers.
Residents claim the disused building should be used for a wider range of community activities.

Friday, 28 December 2012

THIS WEEK'S VISITORS (1,459)



Regular update on the number of pageviews received from different parts of the world in the week just ending.
  1. United States 585
  2. United Kingdom 274
  3. Russia 179
  4. Ukraine 150
  5. Poland 83
  6. France 54
  7. Sweden 44
  8. Germany 39
  9. India 39
  10. Israel 32
This week's total: 1,459 (last week: 1,619). These are aggregates of figures from the top ten countries only. Blogger's analytics doesn't show the numbers of pageviews below the tenth-ranking country and they don’t show the cumulative total including those additional countries, which is undoubtedly larger than the number shown above.

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.

POLITICIANS SHOULD NOT TRY TO PLAY GOD

This letter appears in today's Leicester Mercury:
Politicians should not try to play God
I agree with Keith Coleman's letter "Not for us to modernise what the Bible teaches" (Mailbox, December 24).
Paul also said: "And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be silent." (1 Timothy, chapter 1 verse 12).
In Deuteronomy, chapter 12 verse 32: "Whatever I command you, be careful to observe it, you shall not add to it nor take away from it".
Ecclesiastes, chapter 3 verse 14: "I know that whatever God does, it shall be forever. Nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it, that men should fear before Him."
The Bible is God's holy word but today it seems many clergy and bishops think they know better and want to add to it with current thinking, such as on equality.
If God had wanted women to be clergy and bishops, then it would say so in the Bible.
At the end of the day, it is high time the modernisers accepted that there is only one authority for the church and their ministries and that is the word of God.
I, too, look forward with interest to the debate and vote in the Commons.
No doubt we will see politicians who agree with it and wanting to act as God and instil their views and will upon the country.
How many politicians have actually asked the public what they think? I have nothing against gay people. If they choose to live that lifestyle, then that is their choice.
Kevin Fletcher, Coalville

PIG'S HEAD DUMPED AT THURNBY LODGE CENTRE USED FOR PRAYERS BY MUSLIMS

This article appears in today's Leicester Mercury:
Pig's head dumped at Thurnby Lodge centre used for prayers by Muslims
A pig's head has been left at the doors of a community centre used as a Muslim place of worship.
Thurnby Lodge Community Centre, in Leicester, is used for prayers by Muslim group As Salaam.
In recent months, the centre has become the focus of a row over the group's desire to pray instead at a neighbouring disused Scout hut, owned by Leicester City Council.
Muslims going to and from prayers at the centre have had to walk past protesters who say the Scout hut should be for wider community use.
At 7.30am on Wednesday, Muslims who arrived to unlock the community centre in Thurncourt Road found a pig's head by the automatic front door.
Muslims are forbidden from eating pork and many consider pigs to be unclean animals, and leaving a pig's head at the doors is an insulting gesture to Muslims.
Police are investigating who is behind the incident.
Moulana Mohammed Lockhat, the Imam for the As Salaam group, said the act had only made members more determined to continue to pray as normal.
He said: "We arrived to open up the centre for prayers and found the pig's head. It had probably come from a butcher's.
"I was deeply saddened by this development. It was clearly an act of deep, religious discrimination against us.
"But that doesn't mean it's going to stop us from praying in the building.
"We still had our prayers on Wednesday morning and putting a pig's head outside isn't going to change things, except maybe make us more determined than ever to carry on."
The prayer group called the police who took the pig's head away.
A 23-year-old Muslim, who attends evening prayers every day at the centre, said: "It's a highly charged atmosphere at Thurnby Lodge at the moment and this was a very provocative act.
"Muslims are prohibited from eating pigs and whoever did this obviously knew that and were setting out to be offensive and make fun of something very serious to us.
"For me, it's mainly the insult but some Muslims are extremely sensitive about the cleanliness of a pig's head."
The protesters trying to stop the Muslim group using the Scout hut, in Nursery Road, are arguing that it should be for everyone and not just Muslims.
Superintendent Mark Newcombe said: "The only people using the community centre on Wednesday were from a local Muslim group and it's easy to draw the conclusion that the pig's head was meant for them, and is the reason we believe this to be religiously motivated.
"We have no tolerance for discrimination in Leicester, be that racially or religiously motivated, and we want members of the public to help us do all we can to find those responsible and bring them to justice."
Anyone with any information about the incident is asked to contact police on 101.
Alternatively, contact Crimestoppers, which is anonymous, on 0800 555 111.

Thursday, 27 December 2012

A TRIBUTE TO THE POWER OF SHARED VALUES

Riaz Ravat's First Person column appears in today's Leicester Mercury (but not on the website):
A tribute to the power of shared values
Riaz Ravat looks back over an eventful year that has brought faith communities closer together
This year will surely go down as one of the most remarkable in the history of the UK. On a spring day in March , Leicester paid a colourful and vibrant tribute to the Queen on the first stop of her Diamond Jubilee tour. The royal party was treated to a show that will live long in the memory.
The Church of England is interwoven into the fabric of this country and the leadership shown by the Diocese of Leicester, with Leicester Cathedral as the centrepiece, enabled a mosaic of faith communities to join in the celebrations to show they too are firmly rooted in the identity of this country.
2012 as also marked as the Year of Service. Launched in January, the initiative encouraged faith communities to work collectively to deliver charity efforts to needy causes.
"Confirm us in service to the world of humanity so that we may become the servants of Thy servants, that we may love all they creatures and become compassionate to all thy people."
These words of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, the eldest son and successor of Bahá'u'lláh, the founder of the Bahá'í Faith, were delivered in 1912 and it was fitting the Bahá'í community was instrumental in launching a year of service.
One of the many points to note from the release of the 2011 Census is how the definition of "minority" is being redrawn locally.
The presence of smaller groups, such as the Bahá'í and Jewish communities, poses challenges to larger communities and defines the true meaning of a decent and progressive society. The challenge is how we enable these minorities to express their confidence and to contribute their fullest, to the life of the city, county and country.
Throughout the year, we witnessed Bahá'ís, Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Jains, Jews, Muslims, Sikhs and those of no professed religions belief coming together for the selfless service of others.
Whether this motivation is inspired by God, political doctrine or human concern, we must begin to address what wee mean by  shared values, purposes and the nature of "good", not only for today's world, but for tomorrow's.
As we reflect on service, let us not forget the dedication and decency of the outgoing Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams.
The impact of the General Synod voting against female Bishops is not restricted to the Church of England. Far from observing these developments, those from other persuasions must now take stock and ask, how much longer will we accept the gap between the principle and practice of equality?
The spiritual richness of service and compassion which faith communities possess, undergirded by their respective "golden rules", is all too often tainted by humanity's thirst for selective salvation.
Riaz Ravat is deputy director at St Philip's Centre, Leicester

Monday, 24 December 2012

NOT FOR US TO MODERNISE WHAT THE BIBLE TEACHES

This letter appears in today's Leicester Mercury:
Not for us to modernise what the Bible teaches
When I read Ronald Mupfeki's letter "Women's Role in the Church" (Mailbox, December 17), I felt I had to write to support the view he expressed.
I, too, have been watching with interest as the General Synod got in a proper pickle over the matter. Is it really true that one of the bishops said that they would keep on voting until they got the right result? How self-righteous can you get?
The Bible verse at 2 Tim 3:16 makes it clear that the scriptures are inspired of Almighty God and are beneficial for teaching, reproving and setting things straight.
So Mr Mupfeki is spot on when he says the Bible tells us that bishops should be men.
That being the case, what are the current crop of bishops thinking of when they promote the idea of women bishops. Do they really know better than God?
If Almighty God has determined, in his wisdom, that men only should be bishops, by what authority do they seek to change that ruling.
Do they really think that they have greater intellect than the Most High Personage of the Universe?
The idea that "times have changed" and that "it would be more in keeping with modern life" really doesn't cut it.
The verse at Romans 15:4 tells us that, "all things written aforetime were written for our instruction", and if we think about wise King Solomon, while he did things God's way, he prospered, but when he turned away from God's guidance things went horribly wrong for him.
While God granted us free will, we are also answerable for our actions. Can we see the similarity?
Having said all that, it's true to say that women are held in great regard by our Creator and His son.
It was a woman to whom Jesus chose to appear first after his resurrection and, when we read in Ephesians 5, how the Christian husband is directed to treat his wife, then we can have no doubt as to the respect in which women are held within the Christian arrangement.
Time and time again the Church leaders have surrounded themselves with controversy when they try to modernise by going against the Bible that they are supposed to view as their Holy Book.
Perhaps they don't believe what the Bible says. With all this in mind, I am watching, with interest, the outcome of the matter relating to gay marriage.
Keith Coleman, Ashby

Saturday, 22 December 2012

SPIRE APPEAL GETS BIG BOOST

This article appears in today's Leicester Mercury:

Spire appeal gets big boost
An appeal to save the spire of one of England's most historically important churches has been given a £40,000 funding boost.
St Mary de Castro's spire appeal has been given the money by the charity National Churches Trust.
Described as the "jewel of Leicester's churches", its spire is in desperate need of repair after six-metre cracks were discovered on four of its six faces.
The money donated will go towards the SOS (Save Our Spire) fund-raising appeal, which was launched in September and is looking to raise up to £500,000 to fix the damage.
Church member and appeal co-ordinator Rosemary Mason said the award was a timely boost for the appeal.
"We are one of only eight church projects in the country to be awarded one of these grants, so it's a big coup for us," she said.
"It helps a tremendous amount towards paying for essential repairs and in building up momentum behind the appeal."
Claire Walker, chief executive of the National Churches Trust, said: "We are delighted to be providing funding – a £40,000 Cornerstone grant will help fund major repairs to the church spire of this nationally significant church."
The grade I-listed St Mary de Castro is on heritage watchdog English Heritage's 'at risk' register.
King Henry VI was knighted in St Mary's in 1426 and it is also thought Geoffrey Chaucer was married there.
King Richard III's body is believed to have lain in rest in the church after his death at the Battle of Bosworth.
English Heritage has already offered to pay £187,000 towards the spire repair, with supporters raising more than £2,000 since the appeal's launch.
"The appeal is going really well," said Mrs Mason.
"Our Sponsor a Stone scheme has had a very positive take-up, with about 45 people signing up and more people approaching us every day for the chance to have their names recorded in the church archives for posterity.
"It's been a fantastic response and we're grateful to everyone for their continued support."
De Montfort University students have adopted the spire appeal as part of the university's Square Mile (Mile2) regeneration project, supporting the communities of Woodgate, Tudor Road, Fosse Road and Newfoundpool.
Mark Charlton, Mile2 manager, said: "St Mary de Castro historically served these areas and our students wanted to be part of the SOS campaign.
"We organised a fundraising carol concert in the church and students will stage a vintage clothing fair in the spring."
Work on the spire is expected to begin in the new year.
www.stmarydecastro spireappeal.co.uk

FALSE PICTURE OF THURNBY LODGE

This letter appears in today's Leicester Mercury:
False picture of Thurnby Lodge
I've been very disappointed to read all the negative stories about Thurnby Lodge Estate over the last few months.
The issue concerning the sale of the Scout Hut still rumbles on. I wonder how many residents returned the consultation letter which Leicester City Council sent out recently?
I'd be interested to know just how much this latest effort to reach a solution has cost.
There is no sign of an end to the confrontation that is still taking place outside the community centre and now we have a story of racial comments aimed at a female fire fighter collecting for charity on the estate.
This is not a true picture of the essence of the community spirit on the estate. The majority of residents are indifferent to the protesters who meet outside the community centre and I believe most, like me, will be appalled to read about the story of racism.
As Christmas Day approaches, let us be reminded of what it's really all about – that love came down at Christmas and brought peace and goodwill to all.
May that peace prevail in Thurnby Lodge.
Rev Lynn Padmore, Priest-in-Charge, Christ Church, Thurnby Lodge

KORAN-RIPPING JURY DISCHARGED

This article appears in today's Leicester Mercury:
Koran-ripping jury discharged
The jury in the trial of a man who staged an anti-religion protest by ripping out pages from the Koran in front of Muslims has been discharged.
The eight women and four men on the jury at Leicester Crown Court failed to agree on a verdict.
They sent a note to the judge saying there was no prospect of them reaching either a unanimous or a majority verdict on which at least 10 of them agreed.
Peter James Crawford (52) was said to have torn pages from his own copy of the Koran and thrown the holy book on the ground next to a stall run by the Islamic Information Centre, near the Clock Tower, in Leicester city centre, on the afternoon of May 12.
Crawford, of Mere Road, Spinney Hill, Leicester, denied causing religiously aggravated intentional harassment, alarm or distress by demonstrating hostility based on membership of a particular religious group. The Crown Prosecution Service has 14 days to decide whether or not to proceed with a retrial.
Crawford was released on bail with a condition imposed that he should not to go within half-a-mile of the Clock Tower on Saturday afternoons.

Friday, 21 December 2012

THIS WEEK'S VISITORS (1,619)


Regular update on the number of pageviews received from different parts of the world in the week just ending.
  1. United Kingdom 521
  2. United States 517
  3. Russia 206
  4. Ukraine 92
  5. France 84
  6. Spain 53
  7. India 50
  8. Poland 49
  9. Germany 30
  10. China 17
This week's total: 1,619 (last week: 2,154). These are aggregates of figures from the top ten countries only. Blogger's analytics doesn't show the numbers of pageviews below the tenth-ranking country and they don’t show the cumulative total including those additional countries, which is undoubtedly larger than the number shown above.

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.

EVENT HELPS FUND VITAL MEDICAL SUPPLIES

This article appears in today's Leicester Mercury (but not on its website):
Event helps fund vital medical supplies
Charity volunteers raised £53,000 for emergency aid in Gaza by holding a fund-raising dinner.
Islamic Relief volunteers staged the event at Koyla's, in Charter Street, Leicester.
The money will help to provide medical supplies to hospitals in the area.
Salim Lorgat, a fund-raiser for the Islamic Relief, said he was pleased with the response to the event.
He said: "there was so much support, it was very moving.
"Families in Gaza are suffering and we are delighted to be able to support with vital supplies to hospitals."
Globally, the charity aims to raise £10 million for its work in Gaza, half of which being spent on medical supplies and half on trying to help the area recover from recent events.
"It would be easy to be disheartened by how much damage has been done to but we are encouraged by the dedication of our staff in Gaza and the generous response of supporters in the East Midlands," said Salim.

BID FOR NEW GUILD STAGE

This article appears in today's Leicester Mercury:
Bid for new Guild stage
Worshippers want to replace a stage in a historic building as it is not strong enough to support the weight of a two-tonne statue of a god.
The Shirdi Sai Baba Temple Association, of London, is converting the grade II-listed Guild of Disabled building, in Colton Street, Leicester, into a place of worship.
It intends to put the marble effigy of the god Murthi in the prayer hall but said the existing wooden stage would not support it.
It is proposing a marble replacement.
Officers at Leicester City Council are considering the planning application.

RIPPING KORAN WAS "FREEDOM OF SPEECH"

This article appears in today's Leicester Mercury:
Ripping Koran was "freedom of speech"
An atheist who ripped out pages from the Koran in front of Muslims at a stall promoting Islam was simply exercising freedom of speech, a court heard.
Peter James Crawford told police his decision to then throw the holy book on to the pavement at the Clock Tower, in Leicester city centre, was part of his protest against religion.
The 52-year-old is on trial at Leicester Crown Court accused of causing religiously aggravated intentional harassment, alarm or distress, by demonstrating hostility based on membership of a particular religious group, Islam.
He denies the charge.
Barrister Steven Newcombe, who is representing Crawford, told the jury: "You have to expect that if you set up a stall in the city centre of Leicester advocating views, you are going to get people who have a completely opposite view.
"To do what they did in such a place takes a bit of a thick skin.
"You have to anticipate and expect that somebody is going to take exception and that is exactly what this defendant did.
"This defendant had a right to freedom of expression, just as the two Muslims had a similar right to advocate their religion."
After he had been arrested, Crawford told police he had had the copy of the Koran for two years and had studied it.
Prosecutor James Bide-Thomas told the jury Crawford, of Mere Road, Spinney Hill, Leicester, had approached the Islamic Information Centre's stall run by volunteers under the Clock Tower on Saturday, May 12.
He said at about 1.30pm, Crawford tore out pages of the Koran he had brought with him and then threw the holy book on to the pavement.
Mr Bide-Thomas said: "You the jury have to decide whether he made a valid religious protest or did he go out to upset some Muslims?"He said it was the prosecution case that Crawford had deliberately caused distress and upset to the Muslims on the stall.
Her honour Judge Taylor QC told the jury that the case centred on the balance between the right of Crawford to freedom of speech and the right of the two Muslims to advocate their views without being subject to criminal behaviour.
She said the jury had to decide whether Crawford's behaviour had been insulting and whether the decision to prosecute him was proportionate.
The jury of eight women and four men deliberated for one hour and 39 minutes before the judge sent them to a hotel for the night. They were due to resume their deliberations today.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

LEICESTER CITY OF SANCTUARY CHRISTMAS PARTY


This afternoon I pop into City of Sanctuary's Christmas party at their Drop-in Centre in Booth Hall, St Martins House. There are around 50 service users, with about half that number of volunteers in attendance.

There's a lot of good food and drink on the table, all made or donated by volunteers, friends and supporters. My personal favourite: Mike's orange oil and almond sponge cake.


There's a friendly supportive atmosphere to this low-key occasion, which is just as it should be, befitting the people and their purpose.


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.

ATHEIST IN COURT FOR RIPPING UP KORAN

This article appears in today's Leicester Mercury:

Atheist in court for ripping up Koran
An atheist shocked Muslim volunteers at a stall promoting Islam when he ripped out pages from the Koran.
Peter James Crawford (52) then threw the holy book onto the ground and told them: "Your religion is a load of b******s."
He is on trial at Leicester Crown Court accused of causing religiously aggravated intentional harassment, alarm or distress, by demonstrating hostility based on membership of a particular religious group, Islam. He denies the charge.
The incident happened at the Islamic Information Centre's stall, near the Clock Tower in Leicester city centre, on a busy Saturday afternoon, on May 12.
Kamran Qayyum, an employee of the organisation, told the court: "We give out literature to create an awareness of Islam and engage with the public."
He was with four volunteers when Crawford began pacing around nearby.
Mr Qayyum said: "He started tearing up pages from a book and they were going on the floor. He wasn't saying anything. The pages covered a lot of ground, they were everywhere.
"I then noticed Arabic inscriptions and realised it was the Koran. I knelt down and was picking up the papers when he threw the Koran down, just missing me."
Mr Qayyum said: "The Koran is sacred to us and we honour it. We also have a Bible on our stand and we show the Bible the same respect.
"One of the laws of the Koran is it shouldn't be on the floor, it should be high up and our hands should be clean when it's touched. I was shocked."
Mr Quyyum said after the defendant was arrested: "He made a signal to us, shaping his hand in the form of a gun, saying 'See you next Saturday.'
Defence advocate Steven Newcombe said: "There are many who oppose Islam. Did you take it he was expressing anti-Islamic views and disrespecting the religion?"
"Yes," said Mr Quyyum.
Mr Quyyum agreed that apart from a hand gesture – which Mr Newcombe suggested was the pointing of a finger rather than a gun gesture – the defendant did not threaten or provoke any violence.
Another stall volunteer, Zahid Hussein, said: "I saw him ripping up the book. I was in shock, disgusted. It's our life, our way of life and we live by that book – it's very sacred."
He said Crawford told them their religion was "a load of b******s."
Crawford, of Mere Road, Spinney Hill, Leicester, claimed, in interview, he was expressing his disagreement with religion of any kind.
He told the police it was his own copy of the Koran he tore up, and he would have done the same with a Bible as he did not understand either holy book and "hated" all religion.
"I'm not against the people, just their religion," he said.
James Bide-Thomas, prosecuting, said: "The real issue is whether Crawford was insulting and whether it was a crime that we say he committed.
"It's tradition in this country of freedom of speech and people are entitled to say what they want, as long as it's not illegal in relation to the law, which prevents people going out to cause harassment, alarm or distress by insulting behaviour, basically upsetting people.
"It's for you to decide whether what he did was insulting or whether it was a legitimate piece of freedom of speech being exercised or if what he did was deliberately calculated to upset the people from the Islamic Information Centre."
The trial continues.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

CITIZENS' EYE "OFFICE CHRISTMAS PARTY" AT THE CRUMBLIN' COOKIE


I'm pleased to accept an invitation from John Coster and Tina Barton to the Citizens' Eye "Office Christmas Party" this evening in the Crumblin' Cookie on Leicester's High Street.

There's plenty of food and plenty of disco in the Cookie Jar, downstairs. The Cookie jar is an adaptable venue that's been used for all sorts of public and private events since it opened earlier this year. Last thing I attended in the Cookie Jar was the launch of Rethink Your Mind on 12 May this year (see blog post for that date). I'm glad to see Peter Hirst here, who was behind that successful evening in May.

The food's very nice (with arguably the best hot cheese chilli dip I've ever tasted) but the music's a bit too loud for my ageing ears, so I spend most of the evening upstairs, nursing a couple of gingerbread lattes (tis the season to be jolly, after all). Since I've become such a devotee of Strictly Come Dancing over the past few years, I can't really imagine myself up on the dance floor just throwing shapes any more - and I'm not brave enough to tackle an American Smooth (and I wonder who might be willing to throw caution to the wind and dare partner me for that, in some imagined fanciful AU).

In lieu of that, I enjoy some entertaining and stimulating conversation, particularly with Linda Faulkner regarding some improvised experimental music sessions taking place in Leicester once a month in which I might be able to get involved and with Dan Lamoon of From Dusk 2 Dawn (aka FD2D) on the topic of intrapreneurship. We discuss its difference from entrapreneurship and how it might be the key to pulling Leicester Council of Faiths out of its funding nosedive, preserving my post and restoring our fortunes in the year ahead. I had never heard of intrapreneurship before; thanks to Dan for enlightening me.

I welcome a couple of comments from people whose opinion I care about regarding the blog. Though hardly more than throwaway lines, they stiffen my resolve to get new posts out on time and to catch up on a growing number of Lost Episodes before the turn of the year. A busy festive season of filling in the gaps throughout 2012 awaits!

I'd like to take this opportunity to wish Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to everyone involved with Citizens' Eye, The Crumblin' Cookie and to all whose paths they cross. Stick together and we can take on whatever 2013 has to throw at us!

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

ALIENATING IS AN INEVITABLE RESULT

This letter appears in today's Leicester Mercury:
Alienating is an inevitable result
The Bishop's spokesman on urban issues, Canon Barry Naylor, really did the Church no favours by claiming that Anglicans "unintentionally" alienated people ("Clarification," Mercury, December 13).
I would have thought it was pretty obvious that it was completely inevitable.
How can a Church that claims to be inclusive and non-discriminatory really not understand how it might offend people when it sends it's own bishop to the House of Lords to condemn gay marriage as unacceptable?
The Anglican Church must decide once and for all whether its God loves homosexuals, or whether it sticks by its God's words in the books of Leviticus and Romans which clearly appear to outlaw homosexual behaviour.
It cannot have it both ways. Society will judge its relevance on this issue alone.
Mark Sperry, Leicester

Monday, 17 December 2012

AS MUSLIMS WE WILL SHOW LOVE FOR JESUS

This letter appears in today's Leicester Mercury:
As Muslims we will show love for Jesus
Ahmadiyya Muslim Community wishes all the people of Leicestershire and Rutland a merry Christmas and happy new year.
Although we may not put up stockings and Christmas lights in our houses during the holiday season, make no mistake, as members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, we celebrate the life of Jesus – and all prophets – all year.
Although our views diverge from Christians regarding the divinity of Jesus, Muslims hold a deep reverence for the Prophet Jesus who we, too, regard as the Messiah and whose name is mentioned no fewer than 25 times in the Holy Qu'ran.
As a Muslim, I invoke God's blessings every single day on Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).
But I also choose to show my love for the Prophet Jesus, not with Christmas decorations and frantic holiday shopping trips, but by invoking blessings on him on a regular basis as well. In our five daily prayers, we beseech God to bless us as he did Abraham and his people, which included Jesus.
As we all attempt to navigate another stressful holiday season, may we all remember his patience, steadfastness and unconditional love for humanity and make that a part our faith and lives.
Amen.
Dr Habib Akram, president, Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, Leicester

WOMEN'S ROLE IN CHURCH SET OUT FULLY IN THE BIBLE

This letter appears in today's Leicester Mercury:
Women's role in Church set out fully in the Bible
There has been a lot of media coverage regarding women bishops and priests.
However, not much has been covered regarding what the Bible says about the role of men and women in the church of Jesus Christ.
Is the distinction between men and women in the Church simply a relic passed along to us as a custom from a past biased against women?
One thing I know is the Bible teaches men and women have different, complementary roles to play in the Church.
The Bible says 12 men were chosen to be the founders of the Old Testament Church when they had a sister, Dinah, who could have been selected – Exodus 7:1; 5:20. Only Moses was selected to lead the nation of Israel out of Egypt and Aaron was to lead as the high priest, despite Miriam, their sister, being a prophetess and older.
Only the male first-born son was to be the priest.
A system of male priests was established even though Israel was surrounded by nations that had a culture of selecting priestesses.
Twelve male apostles were chosen as the beginners of the New Testament Church when there were able women who might have been chosen.
The apostle Paul was inspired to write that bishops and elders should be male.
A bishop then must be "blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober minded, of good behaviour, hospitable, able to teach; not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not covetous; one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence". 1 Timothy 3:2-7
In Ephesians 5:22-25, he wrote: "Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the saviour of the body."Therefore, just as the Church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything."
When Adam was created, the Bible says: "It is not good that man should be alone. I will make him a helpmeet."
Women also have an important role in the church – see Matthew 28:1-10; Luke 8:3; 23:49; John 11:1-46; 12:1-8,1 Corinthians 12:27-31; Romans 12:3-8; 1 Peter 4:8-11; Titus 2:4; Acts 2:17-18; 21:9; 1 Corinthians 11:5. From these we can see women in the Church played a very important role.
The problem comes when, as a body of believers, men and women, we do not do what the Bible says Christians must be doing in these last days – in Matthew 28:18-20 – but instead spend most of our time striving about who can occupy which position.
Ronald Mupfeki, Leicester

HANNUKKAH MARKED BY LIGHTING OF A MENORAH

This article appears in today's Leicester Mercury:


Hannukkah marked by lighting of a menorah
Jews celebrated the eighth evening of Hanukkah with the lighting of a giant nine-light menorah.
The ceremony, in Victoria Park, was performed by Lord Mayor of Leicester Councillor Abdul Osman.
Councillor Osman said: "It is very pleasing for me to be invited to join our Jewish family to perform the ceremony for the third time.
"This ceremony at one of the gateways into Leicester shows the diversity of the city."
Leon Charikar, chairman of Leicester Progressive Jewish Congregation, who led a brief service of hymns and prayers, said: "I would like to welcome the Lord Mayor and thank Leicester City Council for again erecting the menorah in Victoria Park.
"We are a small community of about 300 people. Hanukkah is a festival which celebrates religious freedom and we are pleased to share it with the people of such a diverse city."
The festival celebrates the rededication of the temple in Jerusalem following the Jewish defeat of a regime that denied them freedom to worship, and also celebrates the triumph of good over evil.

In the photo above: Leon Charikar, Lord Mayor Abdul Osman and Lady Mayoress Shaina Osman light the Victoria Park menorah

Friday, 14 December 2012

THIS WEEK'S VISITORS (2,154)



Regular update on the number of pageviews received from different parts of the world in the week just ending.
  1. United Kingdom 623
  2. United States 532
  3. Russia 369
  4. France 132
  5. Germany 124
  6. Spain 126
  7. India 99
  8. Ukraine 76
  9. Poland 50
  10. Israel 23
This week's total: 2,154 (last week: 2,402). These are aggregates of figures from the top ten countries only. Blogger's analytics doesn't show the numbers of pageviews below the tenth-ranking country and they don’t show the cumulative total including those additional countries, which is undoubtedly larger than the number shown above.

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.

LEICESTERSHIRE PARTNERSHIP NHS TRUST, SERVICE LEVEL AGREEMENT, FINAL REPORT

Following extended discussion and a number of meetings, a Service Level Agreement (SLA) between Leicester City PCT and Leicester Council of Faiths was signed on 31 March 2009. This contract ended formally on 31 May 2012. Here's an amended version of the final report on this agreement, that I submitted today. All these topics are covered extensively throughout this blog.

We were originally contracted to work with Leicester City PCT but got caught up in redeployment issues within the NHS locally, both of staff and of responsibilities. Management of our contract was put into the hands of the Integrated Equalities Team at Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust. Consequently (and through no fault of our own) it took longer than we would have liked for actual work to take place in furthering the aims of our SLA.

NHS Staff Multifaith Resource
Following a year and more of consultation among the eight member communites of Leicester Council of Faiths and a variety of other communities of religion or belief (Humanist, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormon, Pagan, Rastafarian, Spiritualist), Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust published a Staff Multifaith Resource. This pack provides the following information in the same order, for each of the communities of religion or belief included:
  • Introduction and local information
  • Mode of greeting
  • Birth
  • Examination of patient
  • Particular sensitivities
  • Washing, ablutions and personal hygiene
  • Modesty and dress
  • Special dietary requirements
  • Fasting
  • Family planning
  • Abortion
  • Care in serious (or final stages of) illness
  • Blood transfusion / transplants
  • Organ donation
  • Spiritual advisor / counsellor
  • Death
  • Religious symbols
  • Post mortem
  • Burial / cremation
  • General considerations for community nurses visiting patients at home

The Multifaith Staff Resource was officially launched during Inter Faith Week 2011 with three lunchtime meetings on consecutive days in the Brandon Unit, Glenfield Hospital. (Tue 22 Nov), Mansion House, Glenfield Hospital (Wed 23 Nov) and at Leicester General (Thu 24 Nov).

Shortly before the end of 2011, a programme of induction began for ward staff in the city, county and Rutland and for Community Teams in the same areas and for the Trust’s Spiritual and Pastoral Care Team. This induction programme was delivered alongside Abida Hussain, the Trust’s Equalities and Human Rights Officer.

Faith Community Health Ambassadors
The idea for this project originated in a full meeting of Leicester Council of Faiths at the Welcome Centre (13 July 2010), on the topic of health inequalities. This meeting was addressed by Deb Watson (Director of Public Health, Leicester City PCT) and her Assistant Director, Rod Moore.  Deb also presented a refined version of this proposal at the Council of Faiths AGM (21 Oct 2010). Since this programme kicked into action, around 30 short video interviews have been conducted with individuals from a variety of backgrounds of religion or belief for use in training of staff with Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust. In these videos, subjects answer questions about how their religion or belief impact on their health and how they access healthcare services. Contributors identified with a particular religion or belief as follows: 
  • 2 Baha’is
  • 5 Buddhists
  • 4 Christians
  • 7 Hindus
  • 1 Humanist
  • 2 Jews
  • 6 Muslims
  • 1 Rastafarian
  • 1 Secularist
  • 3 Sikhs

Equality Delivery System
We were invited to take part in community consultation on LPT’s equality objectives at two meetings: 10 March 2011 at the Towers and (with an extended group of stakeholders)  8 March 2011 at Mansion House, Glenfield Hospital.

These meetings led to progress on the development of LPT’s Equality Delivery System (EDS). I was asked to participate in a meeting with a variety of stakeholders to grade LPT’s Equality Delivery System at the Peepul Centre, Orchardson Avenue, Monday 27 February 2012.

The same individuals who were recorded for the Faith Community Health Ambassadors project were contacted and asked to take part in a community engagement review of LPT’s Equality Delivery System in a meeting at Merlyn Vaz Health & Social Care Centre, Spinney Hill Road on Wednesday 28 November. Although only two people turned up in person, several other responses were received by post.

Impact attendant on proposed closure of children’s heart unit at Glenfield Hospital
I was asked to coordinate the Council of Faiths’ response to impacts attendant on the possible closure of the children’s heart unit at Glenfield Hospital. Following a one-to-one briefing with Christina Marriott, ?? at LPT HQ, Lakeside, Grove Park, Monday 28 May 2012, members were canvassed for their responses, then a three page-long response was submitted, 30 May 2012. 

PLANNING FOR DIVERSITY WEEK AT SOUTH LEICESTERSHIRE COLLEGE


A meeting this morning with Zulqa Muhammad, Learning Coach at South Leicestershire College. The college is planning a Diversity Week involving students and staff, Monday 28 to Friday 1 January 2013.

Zulqa saw our exhibition in Highcross during Inter Faith Week at the end of November and has asked if the Council of Faiths could get involved. He shares the draft programme with me; it covers a variety of the Protected Characteristics that you'd expect to find on campus, including disability, LGBT, race and religion. The college has a strong and active Equality and Diversity Group which covers these themes and others, as expressed in the college's Equality and Diversity scheme

We're asked to provide participants from different faith backgrounds for what's described as a "Religious Speed Dating" session around lunchtime on the Tuesday. We're also being asked to bring along our full exhibition for the Thursday, which will be the busiest day of the week.

I offer our two "generic" banners for the whole of the week, along with the two banners from Leicester University ("Mapping Faith and Place in Leicester" and "Leicester Faith Trail") which are still in our possession after we used them at Inter Faith Week. We might lend a couple of blu-rays of movies that featured in our Faiths Film Festival at Phoenix Square during Inter Faith Week 2011.

The dates for the college's Diversity Week will allow the event to be listed as being keyed to World Interfaith Harmony Week, which begins on Friday 1 February.

We should be able to help the college get some decent exposure for their Diversity Week through social media and by our contact with Citizens' Eye Community News Agency and Civic Leicester (among others). A the very least, I should be able to pop in each day and film a few video snippets on my flip camera that could be uploaded to their sites and to Facebook, Twitter etc.

The photo above shows the space in the college concourse that'll be given to the Council of Faiths full exhibition on the Thursday of their Diversity Week. It's the kind of alcove setting I've long wanted to see it in.