Saturday, 30 March 2013


This article appears in today's Leicester Mercury:

Joy for Baba's devotees
Up to 7,000 people are expected at the opening of a temple in the city centre today.
The Shri Shirdi Sai Baba temple, at the grade II-listed Guild of Disabled building, in Colton Street, Leicester, is the second of its kind in the UK and follows the teachings of Sai Baba of Shirdi, a Hindu guru who lived from 1835 to 1914.
Worshippers from the organisation's temple in Wembley, London, have been preparing for the big day and expect many people from other Hindu temples around the Midlands to attend.
A temple management spokesman said: "Our organisation began in London in 2010 and this is our first venture in spreading Baba's message around the UK.
"The message is about treating everyone politely and humbly, helping the needy and having trust and patience.
"Part of our work will be sharing food with the poor and the hungry in Leicester. We have a kitchen here and people coming to the temple will also bring food to share.
"Word will spread fast."
One devotee who goes to the Wembley temple and who is staying in Leicester to help with the new temple's opening, said: "The building is awesome. We've had to put a lot of heat in to bring it alive but it's amazing for me to be here and be part of it.
"Because it's a building designated for worship we can feel free to say our prayers to our hearts' content."
Another visitor from London, helping with the final preparations yesterday, said: "It's a beautiful building and very spacious – it will be very good to see Leicester people able to enjoy themselves here.
"We are expecting thousands of people, brought by the teachings of Baba."
He said the temple offered a new twist on traditional Hinduism for followers of the faith.
He said: "I go to the London temple and I've also been involved with Baba and his teachings in India.
"In Hinduism there are hundreds of gods and teachings and it's like lots of schools teaching the same subject, but different teachers have slightly different messages. With Baba's teachings the focus is on patience."
The temple spokesman said: "Baba says trust and have patience and you will get results.
"A lot of people have experienced this working in their life and that's why they want to come."
The Guild of Disabled building, completed in 1909, is believed to have been the first building in Britain, and possibly the world, to be designed to be wheelchair-friendly.
Stuart Bailey, chairman of Leicester Civic Society, said: "It's always good to see new uses found for old buildings and I'm very pleased to hear the temple is opening. We look forward to them doing further work on the building – it needs cleaning up on the outside but they have done a lot."


This article appears in today's Leicester Mercury:

Tuneful twist to the Easter tale
People flocking to the city centre yesterday to watch the story of Jesus's crucifixion were surprised to see less suffering and more singing.
This year's Christ in the Centre saw a 40-strong cast, in brightly-coloured robes, give two performances of a play written by children's author Meg Harper.
The show ended with gospel singing instead of the agonising death of Christ on the cross.
Afterwards, many said they preferred the more child-friendly version, while others missed the more realistic drama from previous years.
Clive Watts, 43, of Leicester Forest East, said: "It was very different to previous years and not what I expected, but I think it told the story and told it well."
Jill Carr, 49, of Evington, said: "The question is whether it's missing its central message. The death of Jesus was always done in a shocking way and now it's Jesus in a bright red robe."
Another woman, who did not want to be named, said: "It was more child-friendly – my 13-year-old daughter didn't want to come because it profoundly affected her seeing the violence last year.
"But it's now a bit short and less gripping."
Tim and Jen Stratford, of Leicester city centre, were attending for the first time and enjoyed it. Jen said: "They made it so alive and compelling and I think it would appeal to everyone."
Tim said: "My feet are very cold, but I was impressed – it's great that they tell the story so clearly and well in the middle of the city centre like this and the number of people here is pretty good."
Sylvia Richardson, of Rothley, said: "It was brilliant. The lovely singing was fantastic. It's very nice to see Leicester celebrating a Christian festival."
Marion Seaman, 73, who lives near Market Harborough, said: "I loved the strong characters, especially Jesus and Judas – there was no namby-pamby acting."
Event trustee Jonathan Wheeler said about 6,000 people had attended the morning show and that the reaction had been good.He said: "We were doing something different and it went really well.
"We had a good number of people and the initial reaction was very good."
The event cost about £43,000 to stage and the organisers were about £8,000 short at the beginning of this month.
Bucket collections took place during the event to raise funds to keep it going in future years.
Mr Wheeler said: "We have our collections during the event and there is also a form on the programme for people to send in donations.
"We are very near the finishing line for this year but we need to make it more of a year-round fund-raising thing.

Friday, 29 March 2013


Regular update on the number of pageviews received from different parts of the world in the week just ending.
  1. United Kingdom 730
  2. United States 648
  3. Russia 309
  4. Ukraine 164
  5. Germany 92
  6. France 86
  7. Turkey 45
  8. India 40
  9. China 27
  10. Poland 20
This week's total: 2,161 (last week: 1,682). 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.


There's plenty of coverage in the national media today of an article written by Lord Carey, former Archbishop of Canterbury, published in the Daily Mail. Immediately below is how the article is promoted on the Daily Mail's website, followed by the full text of the article itself.
Cameron accused of betraying Christians: Astonishing Easter attack on the PM by former Archbishop of Canterbury
Many Christians doubt David Cameron’s sincerity in pledging to protect their freedoms, former Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey says today.
In an article for the Daily Mail, Lord Carey squarely accuses ministers of "aiding and abetting" discrimination against Christians.
He says he believes there is an "aggressive secularist and relativist approach" behind the Government plans to legalise gay marriage and says the Prime Minister has "done more than any other recent political leader" to "feed" Christian anxieties.
As a dramatic new poll released on the eve of Easter Sunday revealed that more than two-thirds of Christians feel they are now part of a "persecuted minority", Lord Carey insists the Government must do more to demonstrate its commitment to pledges to stand up for faith.
The survey suggests churchgoers increasingly feel religious freedoms are under assault from aggressive secularism. 
Critics say court rulings against Christians who want to wear crosses at work, and legal action preventing prayers before council meetings, have helped make people feel marginalised.
In the article, Lord Carey expresses particular alarm about apparent Government support for a campaign by Labour MP Chris Bryant to turn the 700-year-old Parliamentary chapel of St Mary Undercroft into a multi-faith prayer room so that gay couples can get married there.
But he also turns his fire on the Prime Minister, saying: "It was a bit rich to hear that the Prime Minister has told religious leaders that they should 'stand up and oppose aggressive secularisation' when it seems that his government is aiding and abetting this aggression every step of the way.
"At his pre-Easter Downing Street reception for faith leaders, he said that he supported Christians’ right to practise their faith. Yet many Christians doubt his sincerity."
The ComRes poll suggests there is continuing resentment over the Government’s decision to legalise same-sex unions, even though there is special protection for the Church of England in the law. 
More than half (58 per cent) of Christians who backed the Conservatives in 2010 suggested they will ‘definitely not’ vote for the party in 2015.
The ComRes poll of 535 regular churchgoers, commissioned by the Coalition for Marriage (C4M), reveals that more than two-thirds (67 per cent) of Christians feel that they are part of a ‘persecuted minority’.
The march of secularism means that if trends continue, Britain will no longer be a Christian country by 2030 when the number of non-believers will have overtaken the number of Christians.
In the past six years the number of Muslims has surged by 37 per cent to 2.6 million, Hindus by 43 per cent and Buddhists by a massive 74 per cent.
Numbers who choose to call themselves Christians fell by more than 4 million in a decade after 2001, the 2011 census showed. Fewer than six out of ten – 59.3 per cent – described themselves as Christian.
A decade ago nearly three quarters, 72 per cent, did so. Some 33.2 million people said they were Christian in 2011.
Downing Street strongly rejected Lord Carey’s attack. A spokesman said: "This government strongly backs faith and Christianity in particular, including backing the rights of people wanting to wear crosses at work and hold prayers at council meetings. Christianity plays a vital part in the Big Society."

Here's the text of Lord Carey's article in full, published in the Daily Mail today:
The PM's done more than any other leader to make Christians feel they're perescuted
I like David Cameron and believe he is genuinely sincere in his desire to make Britain a generous nation where we care for one another and where people of faith may exercise their beliefs fully.
But it was a bit rich to hear that the Prime Minister has told religious leaders that they should ‘stand up and oppose aggressive secularisation’ when it seems that his government is aiding and abetting this aggression every step of the way.
At his pre-Easter Downing Street reception for faith leaders, he said that he supported Christians’ right to practise their faith. Yet many Christians doubt his sincerity. According to a new ComRes poll more than two-thirds of Christians feel that they are part of a ‘persecuted minority’.
Their fears may be exaggerated because few in the UK are actually persecuted, but the Prime Minister has done more than any other recent political leader to feed these anxieties.
He seems to have forgotten in spite of his oft-repeated support for the right of Christians to wear the cross, that lawyers acting for the Coalition argued only months ago in the Strasbourg court that those sacked for wearing a cross against their employer’s wishes should simply get another job.
More shockingly, the Equalities Minister, Helen Grant, recently gave her support to the Labour MP Chris Bryant’s campaign to turn the 700-year-old Parliamentary chapel of St Mary Undercroft into a multi-faith prayer room so that gay couples can get married there. The Speaker of the House of Commons is reported to be supportive of the move.
Now, there are many questions that we need to ask. If this means the removal of Christian symbols from the chapel to accommodate all faiths and even humanist ceremonies this would amount to changing the chapel fundamentally, even to banishing the Christian faith from the seat of political power. This would have implications for Her Majesty, the Queen, and could place her in a very difficult position as the chapel is a Royal Peculiar under her direct patronage.
As David Cameron knows, I am very suspicious that behind the plans to change the nature of marriage, which come before the House of Lords soon, there lurks an aggressive secularist and relativist approach towards an institution that has glued society together for time immemorial.
By dividing marriage into religious and civil the Government threatens the church and state link which they purport to support. But they also threaten to empty marriage of its fundamental religious and civic meaning as an institution orientated towards the upbringing of children.
If this is not enough, the legislation fails to provide any protection for religious believers in employment who cannot subscribe to the new meaning of marriage. There will be no exemptions for believers who are registrars. They can expect to be sacked if they cannot, in all conscience, support same-sex marriage.
Strong legal opinion also suggests that Christian teachers, who are required to teach about marriage, may face disciplinary action if they cannot express agreement with the new politically-correct orthodoxy.
The danger I believe that the Government is courting with its approach both to marriage and religious freedom, is the alienation of a large minority of people who only a few years ago would have been considered pillars of society.
Today’s ComRes poll suggests that more than three-quarters of Christians believe that the Government is not listening. More than half of Christians who backed the Conservatives in 2010 say they will ‘definitely not’ vote for the party in 2015.
This continues the breakdown in trust between politicians and the people they serve.
Among these people are very many volunteers, school governors and public servants. In their churches they provide soup kitchens and advice centres, and many other valuable initiatives. They are the ‘big society’ which David Cameron was advocating until recently.
The Government risks entrenching a very damaging division in British society by driving law-abiding Christians into the ranks of the malcontents and alienated – of whom there are already far too many. 


The Bishop of Leicester has written the First Person column in today's Leicester Mercury:

The King of Kings and the king under the car park
It may be that the Easter story takes on a special significance for us in Leicester this year. In the story, Jesus is laid in a tomb and three days later those who were closest to him discovered the body missing. The tomb could not contain Jesus. His presence, his spirit and his very life continued to make itself felt and, 2,000 years later, Christians feel and experience that life and seek to share it with others.
Unexpectedly, this year the story of our city seems to be almost intertwined with the story of a body and with a debate about the kind of tomb he should be laid in.
This newspaper has reflected that debate and shown us how deeply felt are the views people hold about where Richard III should lie and how his grave should be marked.
Rationally speaking, these are simply the last fragmentary remains of an individual whom none of us knew and whose story belongs to the remote past. Why then such passion, indignation and desire to signify his life and his death in a particular way?
Presumably, because in some way the spirit of Richard III lives on. In some way his short life is not extinguished by his death. In some way his life and his story have meaning beyond the grave.
If that is true for Richard III, Christians believe it is true for every human being. Our life is not defined and contained simply by the short span of time on this Earth.
Through the Easter story, we are given a picture of the highest possible degree of human living as seen in Jesus Christ. In him, the gap between what it is to be human and what it is to be divine was bridged. The love of God shone through him undimmed and undistorted.
The extraordinary conviction of the first followers who found the tomb empty was that a life lived so close to the love of God could not be extinguished by death. Further, they came to believe if this was true for Jesus Christ it is true potentially for every one of us who seek to live the loving life he led.
I welcome the debate about Richard III and his final resting place. It is a reminder to us all of the ultimate significance and dignity of every human life, including those who are not kings or whose names do not appear in the newspapers.
If Easter is true it is true for every one of us. Our life extends beyond the grave into an eternal life with God.
When Richard III is reinterred in Leicester Cathedral, that truth will be affirmed and celebrated as the truth about King Richard and as the truth about us all.
A very happy Easter to you all.
By the Rt Rev Tim Stevens, Bishop of Leicester

Thursday, 28 March 2013


A meeting of the steering group for An Indian Summer 2013 this afternoon at LCB Depot, Rutland Street. 

Plans are proceeding apace, I'm glad to say. Final confirmation is still awaited of a large chunk of funding from Arts Council England, but confidence is high. And if the funding is confirmed, then it will secure both this and next year's events - so we're already talking about An Indian Summer 2014. I wonder how that can fit in with the city's commemoration of the outbreak of the First World War next year ... 

You will know, faithful reader, that I am a big fan of social media. Hey, this is a blog, so point proven! After years of using Foursquare and getting nothing much out of it, today I am installed as mayor of LCB Depot and become entitled to a free hot drink every day of my reign.


At Phoenix this lunchtime, meeting with Swati Kataria to talk about An Indian Summer in the Cultural Quarter, Thursday 27 to Sunday June.

I've been asked to see if Leicester Council of Faiths can provide a few faith-based talks for the programme, by local speakers on topics related to faith, religion, spirituality etc, linking Leicester and India. 

I can't speak for anyone else that we may have in mind (not till we've asked them and they say yes) but if things go according to plans laid today, I'll be doing the Saturday afternoon talk, entitled "Spiritual But Not Religious". A likely sub-title might be "How I - and the rest of the West - hijacked the wisdom of India". I'm looking forward to that - as you can imagine, faithful reader.

As soon as we finsih this meeting between the two of us, we jaunt to LCB Depot in Rutland Street for a meeting of the larger steering group.


This article appears in today's Leicester Mercury:

A holi night full of fabulous colour
Nearly 5,000 people joined in colourful celebrations for the Hindu festival of Holi.
People travelled from across Leicester and beyond for the event in Spinney Hill Park, which included a large bonfire, on Tuesday night.
They threw coconuts into the flames and painted one another's faces as part of the spring festival – also known as the festival of colours – which welcomes the spring and marks the end of winter.
The event was organised by Shree Hindu Temple and Community Centre, in St Barnabas Road.
Centre manager Mayur Sisodia said: "It went very well – beyond our expectations.
"We estimate there were between 4,000 and 5,000 people there to welcome the spring season. It's a time when people put all their evil thoughts and feelings into the fire and start anew, leaving the past behind us. Everyone had a very enjoyable time.
"We wish to thank Leicester City Council for its support and the police for traffic management."

Wednesday, 27 March 2013


The fortnightly meeting of Creative Coffee Leicester at Phoenix takes place this morning.

After having speakers for the last two meetings, we have a couple of table experts this morning, with whom attendees can book a free 15 minute consultation:
  • Tom Simpson, Accountant with Torr Waterfield Accountants and Business Advisors. Torr Waterfield have a number of clients in creative industries.
  • Russ Pacey, Business Coach for LCB Depot and Phoenix Square. Russ works on the Enterprise Hub Scheme to help startups but also supports SME businesses.


This article appears in today's Leicester Mercury:

Kurdish community marks anniversary of massacre
Kurdish people and university students marked the 25th anniversary of a massacre committed by Saddam Hussein.
In 1988, a poison gas attack was ordered by the former Iraqi dictator on the town of Halabja, in northern Iraq, killing about 5,000 people.
To commemorate the anniversary on March 15, members of the Kurdish community and other guests met at the University of Leicester's Charles Wilson Building for a vigil of silence.
More than 150 people attended. Among them was Karzan Karim, a PhD biology student at the university, who was only five miles away when the attack occurred.
He said: "As a 12-year-old, I heard the planes overhead that went to Halabja and I saw the cloud which we found out later to be the poison gas that killed people in a matter of minutes.
"We wish to honour the memory of those who died and, by remembering the massacre, to raise public awareness of the plight of Kurds." 
The photo above shows Karzan Karim (on the right) with Hataw Hussein.


Ben Ravilious has written the First Person column in today's Leicester Mercury. The titles given to these articles on the Mercury website sometimes differ from that in the print version. On the website, this piece has the title, "We've made diveristy our officila civic religion in Leicester". I'm sticking with that here, since if anyone goes searching for this piece online, that's what they'll find.

This isn't an original piece that Ben has written for the Mercury. He wrote this as a post on his blog, Only in Leicester. The Mercury approached him and asked if he could adapt it for their First Person format.

The important thing is what diversity brings
The City of Culture bid must do more than just state Leicester has a diverse populatioon, says Ben Ravilious
I was delighted to learn the city mayor has given the green light to Leicester's City of Culture bid. However, I already have nagging doubts about the direction this might be taking.
It's the flogging of the word "diversity" that concerns me. We've made diversity our official civic religion in Leicester but I think we should place more emphasis on the ways in which we mix to give us the best chance of winning.
Let's be clear, my wife is of a different race, religion and nationality to me, we have two mixed-race daughters and my life is far richer as a result.
I also think it's essential to continue the battle for equality so everyone in Leicester can all feel equally represented and respected.
But diversity alone is just a statistic and having diversity doesn't necessarily mean harmony or cultural significance. It's what we do with it that counts.
Leicester has done something with it, demonstrated by the extent of blending, mixing and intermarriage.
This is something to celebrate because it's somewhat unique to Leicester and is a living testament to the community cohesion this city is rightly famous for.
I recently took my daughters to a Chinese New Year party at a schoolmate's house where all but one of the children was mixed-race.
Census data echoes this and it's high likely mixed-race people will one day become the majority in Leicester. Even our existing monocultural festivals, such as the Caribbean Carnival, Diwali and St George's Day, are becoming increasingly mixed events.
But mixing rarely gets much attention because it tends to happen quietly and without fanfare in our homes, workplaces and schools.
Also, the participants are not one single cultural or political group whose voices get heard.
I think we have a great chance of winning City of Culture but I think we need to do more than just celebrate our constituent ethnic groups (noble though that is) and put more emphasis on new, home-grown, hybrid and shared culture.
We should be uncovering and showcasing the culturally unique things our city has produced through cultural mixing or otherwise: the food, music, art, science, sport, business, language and humour.
Mixing in particular has brought us interfaith sport, stars such as Gok and Engelbert, English market traders who can speak Hindi, curry pubs, musicians such as Cornershop and Laurel Aitken and it sets the scene for completely unique new culture to develop.
Let's celebrate the fruits of diversity, not just the facts of it.
Ben Ravilious lives in Leicester and runs a web development company

Tuesday, 26 March 2013


At the Bombay PavilionVictoria Park, for a surprise going-away party in honour of Sughra Ahmed. Sughra has been a stalwart of Leicester Council of Faiths all the years I've been in post. She has recently resigned from the Board of Directors as she is leaving Leicester to take up a post with the Woolf Institute, based at Cambridge University. That's her cake in the photo above, with her edible face on it.

Sughra has worked as a Research Fellow in the Islamic Foundation’s Policy Research Centre, based at Markfield Institute of Higher Education. She remains a Trustee of the Interfaith Network UK. She published Seen and Not Heard: Voices of Young British Muslims. She organised flashmob iftar during Ramadan and “Picnic in the Park” thereafter, feeding homeless people and refugees, coordinated through Facebook. She has been of considerable help to me in my post, most notably when she came forward to be one of a panel of speakers at the Amplified Leicester event I hosted at Phoenix Square in March 2011, Amplified Communities of Faith or Belief. I also recall, in particular, how she lit up our display in Highcross on a busy Saturday afternoon during Inter Faith Week 2010, like a flame attracting moths, at ease with the crowds that busy day, able to persuade people to stop and talk or to to take literature as they passed by. She did that gig better than just about anyone else ever involved in it. Not what I expected from someone whom I had thought of up till then as being something of a dry, closeted academic. How wrong could I be about a person, faithful reader? Seeing her in action that one afternoon completely rewrote the script. She also organised a successful seminar for Leicester Council of Faiths during Inter Faith Week 2012, under the title, Faith in Family.

There's a good turnout in her honour this evening and it's clearly been kept secret, to judge by the look on Sughra's face when she arrives.

Several friends and colleagues say their bit about how they got to know Sughra, what she means to them and how they're going to miss her. In the photo above, Rupal Rajani (from BBC Radio Leicester) is doing just that.

We all wish Sughra well in her new role and in her future. Personally, I'll miss her calling me "Georgie". I can't imagine anyone else doing that until I'm sitting all day in a high-backed leather chair, wearing a drool bib and being told to eat up while being fed Ready Brek by means of a plastic spoon. I'll be staring into the distance, trying to recall ... someone ... or something ... Anyway: good luck Sughra! Keep in touch.


This article appears in today's Leicester Mercury:
A blaze of spring colour
Thousands of people are expected to celebrate the Hindu festival of Holi tonight.
Festivities will take place in Spinney Hill Park, Leicester, from 4pm to 8pm.
Japin Morjaria, 53, a member of Shree Hindu Temple, in St Barnabas Road, Leicester, said: "Holi is the representation of spring and the bringing of new life.
We will be sprinkling colour over people to symbolise the colours spring brings."
Japin expected about 3,000 people to turn up to the event which is open to everyone.
At the beginning of the festival a fire will be lit.
The fire represents people being able to start a new year spiritually by throwing their baggage away.

Saturday, 23 March 2013


The Tirath Yatra sponsored walk scheduled for today, organised by Leicester Friends of The Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies, has been postponed due to inclement weather.

More than 60 people had signed up for this pilgrimage round Leicester's 15 mandirs. I was looking forward to the occasion. I bought a new pair of urban walking trainers and have been doing appropriate exercises so that I could make a better job of it than I did last year. I walked for nine hours that day, but gave up with five mandirs still to go. My legs were like jelly for days after. Last year, the Holi Yatra Walk nearly killed me. I've been telling folk that I'm determined to come back this time and finish the job. In total, the walk covers some 13 miles.

I've struggled to come up with a definition of "Tirath". The best I could find is on Urban Dictionary. Not the most graceful English, I'm sure you'll agree faithful reader, but the meaning is clear enough. "Tirath: pilgrimage and sacred, full of holiness and divine power".

Here's the definition of "Yatra" from Wikipedia that I used when I blogged about the sponsored walk last year. Yatra (Sanskrit: यात्रा, "journey", "procession"), in Hinduism and other Indian religions, means pilgrimage to holy places and is generally undertaken in groups. One who goes on a yatra is known as a yatri. It is desirable, but not obligatory, for a Hindu to go on a yatra. One can go on a yatra for a variety of reasons, including festivals, to perform rituals for one's ancestors, or to obtain good karma. To traditional Hindus, the journey itself is as important as the destination, and the hardships of travel serve as an act of devotion in themselves. Visiting a sacred place is believed by the pilgrim to purify the self and bring one closer to the divine.

I've listed below the names and addresses of the different stages on the sponsored walk, as well as links to their websites (for those which have one):
  1. Shree Jalaram Prarthana Mandal, 85 Narborough Rd, LE3 0LF 
  2. Jain Centre, 32 Oxford St, LE1 5XU
  3. Geeta Bhavan, 70 Clarendon Park Rd, LE2 3AD
  4. Radha Krishna Mandir, 47 Cromford St, LE2 0FW
  5. Shree Hindu Mandir, 34 St Barnabas Rd, LE5 4BD
  6. Mandir Baba Balak Nath Ji, 1 Uppingham Rd, LE5 3TA
  7. Shree Sanatan Mandir, 84 Weymouth St, LE4 6FQ
  8. Shree Shakti Mandir,  73 Cannon Stt, LE4 6NH
  9. BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, 135 Gipsy Ln, LE4 6RH
  10. Swaminarayan Mandir (ISSO), 139-141 Loughborough Rd, LE4 5LQ
  11. Shreeji Haveli, 504 Melton Rd, LE4 7SP
  12. Ram Mandir, Hildyard Rd, LE4 5GG
  13. Shri Siva Murugan Temple, Unit 3b Abbey Mill, Ross Walk, LE4 5HH
  14. Sri Vedmata Gayatri Parivar, 16 Rendell Rd, LE4 6LE

There's one other stop on the route, the address of which I don't list as it's untended most of the time.

To the untrained eye this may looks like a pretty exhaustive list of Hindu sites in Leicester, but I know of a further half dozen or more places of worship and/or faith-based community centres that are not visited on the walk. There's a new Shri Shirdi Baba Temple Association mandir on Colton Street opening at the end of this month, so hopefully that one can be slotted in too.


This article appears in today's Leicester Mercury:
Inter-faith project in award joy
An inter-faith project to improve a neighbourhood in Oadby has been given an award in the House of Commons.
In October, volunteers from Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Jain and Sikh backgrounds took part in a project to plant bulbs and clear shrubs around Fludes Lane, in Oadby.
The project was organised by the St Philip's Centre in Evington, which works to bring the city's different religions together.
The work took part [sic] on Sewa Day, an international day of selfless giving and the organisers went to the House of Commons on Wednesday to pick up their Sewa Pioneers Award.
Riaz Ravat, deputy director of St Philip's Centre, said: "This award is a tribute to the many volunteers who put Leicester and Leicestershire on the map.
"Projects from across the globe were nominated for this important accolade and our volunteers showed once again that serving important causes can be done by working with people of all faith and belief backgrounds."
Rupa Kanabar, an Oadby resident who took part in the project, said: "Sewa Day has proved that by bringing all the communities together, we can really make the environment and our world a better place."

Friday, 22 March 2013


Regular update on the number of pageviews received from different parts of the world in the week just ending.
  1. United Kingdom 576
  2. United States 574
  3. Russia 159
  4. Germany 115
  5. France 70
  6. Ukraine 59
  7. India 45
  8. Japan 34
  9. Spain 25
  10. Sweden 25
This week's total: 1,682 (last week: 1,298). 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.


Once a year or so, New Statesman runs a special issue focusing on religion. I'm a big fan of New Statesman - a subscriber actually - and enjoy it each and every week. The magazine engages with topics of religion and spirituality often and I always find their annual special "God" issue a particular treat.

This week's issue's cover is, "After God: What atheists can learn from believers". Below is an abstract from the New Statesman's website, showcasing the intelligent, reflective and thought-provoking writing to be found in this weeks's magazine on this topic:
Swept away by science and the scathing scrutiny of New Atheists, religion seems to be on the point of extinction, yet billions still cling to it. For our cover story this week, we ask some of the leading “New, New Atheists” – those who “separate their atheism from their secularism” and treat religious heritage as “a treasure trove to be plundered” – if faith has a place in modern life. Here is a preview of each contributor's position:
Alain de Botton: The three elements of religion that a post-religious society should “steal”.
“The challenge facing atheists,” de Botton writes, “is how to separate many ideas and rituals from the religious institutions that have laid claim to them but don’t truly own them ... Secularism is not wrong. It is just that we have too often secularised badly.”
1. New priest
“The most sophisticated response we have yet come up with is psychotherapy ... [But there] is also, in a serious sense, an issue of branding. Therapy is hidden, unbranded, depressing in its outward appearance. The priests had far better clothes, and infinitely better architecture.”
2. New gospels
“So, why does the notion of replacing religion with culture, of living according to the lessons of literature and art as believers live according to the lessons of faith, continue to sound so peculiar to us? The fault lies with academia. Universities are entirely uninterested in training students to use culture as ... a source that can prove of solace to us when confronted by the infinite challenges of existence ...”
3. New churches
“You sometimes hear it said that art museums are our new churches ... The challenge is to rewrite the agendas for our art museums so that collections can begin to serve the needs of psychology as effectively as they served those of theology, for centuries.”
Francis Spufford denounces the “burning simplicities” of New Atheism
This post-Christian puritanism, largely oblivious now of its history, is highly visible in the New Atheism of the 1990s and 2000s, and especially in Richard Dawkins’s The God Delusion. Strange indifference (except at the margins) to all religions except Christianity? Check. Sense of being locked in righteous combat with the powers of darkness? Check. Puritanism, it turns out, can float free of faith and still preserve a vehement world-view, a core of characteristic judgements ...
I don’t expect the puritan call will lose its appeal to the young and the zealous, but maybe we are entering a phase of greater tolerance in which, having abandoned the impossible task of trying to abolish religion, atheists might be able to apply themselves to the rather more useful task of distinguishing between kinds that want to damn you and kinds that don’t.
Jim Al-Khalili: “It is time now for the New, New Atheists”
Believing in a god is fine by me, if it is important to you ... But what I, and many other atheists, take issue with is the arrogant attitude that religious faith is the only means of providing us with a moral compass ...
Our society is no longer predominantly religious. Atheists are the mainstream. This is precisely why we should set out our stall to be more tolerant and inclusive ... The New Atheists have laid the foundations; maybe it is time now for the “New, New Atheists”.
Karen Armstrong: “The biblical God is a starter kit”
Most of us are introduced to God at about the same time as we hear about Santa Claus, but over the years our views of Santa mature and change, while our notion of God often gets stuck at an infantile level ... The biblical God is a “starter kit”; if we have the inclination and ability, we are meant to move on. Religion, too, is a practical discipline in which we learn new capacities of mind and heart. Like premodern philosophy, it was not the quest for an abstract truth but a practical way of life.
Richard Holloway: The former bishop of Edinburgh calls for a “critical sympathy towards religion”
A good approach here is not to try to stop the revelation argument from going round and round but to ask a different question, thus: given that there probably is no God, where did all this stuff come from? To which the obvious answer is that it came from us.
So it’s a mistake to do what most unbelievers usually do at this point, which is to dismiss them as fairy tales ... The word to grasp here is myth: a myth is a story that encodes but does not necessarily explain a universal human experience.
The wrong question to ask of a myth is whether it is true or false. The right question is whether it is living or dead, whether it still speaks to our condition.

Thursday, 21 March 2013


Reagan Oates has written the First Person column in today's Leicester Mercury:

Stop being so negative about our culture bid
Leicester has announced that it is bidding to become the UK's next City of Culture in 2017. With a proven track record of excellent festivals and cultural events from Diwali to Pride and with the recent discovery of Richard III's bones, it's no wonder the city has decided to try its luck.
If successful, it could lead to millions of pounds in increased trade, a rise in tourism and the possibility of hundreds of new jobs.
Since this exciting news, what has Leicester done to celebrate? Readied the bunting, congratulated ourselves?
Sadly not. We've done what the Brits do best and started to moan.
We've moaned about our lack of culture, lack of architecture and, more worryingly, a lack of British festivals and events on offer in the city.
Now hold on: we live in one of the most multi-cultural cities in the UK. What exactly is it that makes a festival British? The definition of British relates to the characteristics of the citizens, or inhabitants of the United Kingdom, and last time I checked our events have reflected the people of Leicester.
On top of that, you can't walk 10 yards these days without a new festival or event popping up.
Also, if anyone has a reason to moan about the culture of the city this month, then sorry folks it's me, not you.
Having watched The Monograph magazine recently announce it was ending its printed production, struggling without council or arts funding, I could sit around bemoaning its fate, forever holding a grudge against Leicester's cultural empire.
However, if the city council wants to spend £50,000 on this new city of culture venture, then let it.
Agreed, times are hard to be spending money on arts, but look at the long-term possibilities.
A city celebrated for culture will attract attention, investment and will benefit us all.
It's a simplistic view, yes, of a complex situation but – newsflash, people – recessions are nothing new.
They've happened before, they suck and, yes, we're all skint!
But for this you have a choice. You can choose to pick apart the intentions of the people that are trying to make something for your enjoyment – or you can stop moaning about it and get involved.
Go explore the city. Visit one of our attractions or free museums, such as the one in New Walk (everyone enjoys a good dinosaur) and get behind the bid!
Cease looking at what is wrong with the city. Tackle the small things, such as simple pleasures, and maybe the big things won't seem so bad after all.
The bid gets my vote and I look forward to seeing what's on offer in the future.
Raegan Oates is music editor at From Dusk 2 Dawn magazine.


This letter appears in today's Leicester Mercury:
New Pope appears to have interests of oppressed at heart
We have had a break with tradition in two respects after the Jesuit cardinal of Latin America, Jorge Bergoglio, of Argentina, was elected Pope.
"He has sent me to bring good news to the poor,To proclaim liberty to captives,And to the blind new sight,To set the downtrodden free."
This quotation from Isaiah is to be found at the beginning of St Luke's gospel soon after the infancy narratives.
Indeed, it is in this gospel that Jesus Himself is depicted as drawing attention to the prophecy with respect to outlining his own personal mission.
The attempt to realise these objectives, more especially with respect to the ministry of priests and nuns of the Roman Catholic Church in Latin America, has proved deeply controversial for the Vatican, certainly during the past 40 years or so.
Nowhere better could the oppression of the poor be better illustrated in this continent than that which existed to an alarming extent not so long ago in El Salvador.
It was in this country that the majority of the wealth was in the hands of a few families.
Further, as is often the case in these political circumstances, the military was utilised, at all costs, to protect the status quo.
Those who spoke out in favour of social justice for the poor were executed in substantial numbers, especially priests, nuns and teachers.
Even more significant, with reference to the election of the present Pope, Francis, a number of Jesuit priests who were teachers at the university were persecuted.
One person in particular who stood out during this horrific period was the former Archbishop of El Salvador, Oscar Romero – assassinated in 1980 by government troops while celebrating mass in San Salvador at a small hospital chapel called La Divina Providentia.
Such was his popularity that an estimated 250,000 persons attended his funeral.
This was the price paid for speaking out in prophetic manner against poverty, social injustice, assassinations and torture.
The dilemma facing the Church at the time was that its priests, in the context of putting into practice what it called Liberation Theology, were openly aligning themselves with aspects of Marxism.
In simple terms, there was sympathy with the ideology's concern that radical changes should take place in the structure of society in order that much of the suffering encountered by the poor and oppressed could be alleviated.
By the same token, the Church has focused on a form of action in both Latin America and Africa that has largely steered clear of politics and has therefore been less controversial – that of Cafod.
This is the Catholic Fund for Overseas Development, which basically uses as its motto "Cafod helps people to help themselves".
It concerns itself chiefly with the education of the poor such that they will become less dependent on short-term aid.
Farmers, for instance, can be helped to escape from a subsistence level of existence – one at the mercy of droughts and other vagaries of climatic conditions – by adopting more-productive measures, particularly in terms of being loaned modern machinery.
So this background to the Church in Latin America has particular poignancy for the Pope, as his ministry has been spent against this backcloth and, though at present we've seen or heard little of him, I'm sure we are in for an interesting time.
Most certainly in the spirit of the saint represented in his namesake, and his actions so far, I don't feel he is one who will dwell on much pomp and ceremony.
David Abbott, Stoke Golding