Saturday, 29 June 2013

FREE FOOD FOR TURNING VEGGIE

This article appears in today's Leicester Mercury:
Free food for turning veggie
An animal campaign group is offering free food to two schools if they make their switch to vegetarian meals permanent.
St Barnabas CofE Primary, in Evington, and Highfields Primary – both Leicester – have been serving vegetarian meals because of concerns about potential contamination of halal food.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta) has written to the head teachers to offer free vegetarian sausage rolls for every student if they make the meals a permanent fixture.
Leicester City Council withdrew a halal lamb burger from its school menu in April after it claimed tests showed up to 50 per cent pork in a sample.
Independent tests for the supplier, Paragon Foods, showed no contamination.
In a letter to the schools, Mimi Bekhechi, from Peta, said: "Studies have shown vegetarian kids grow taller and have higher IQs than their classmates and they are also at a reduced risk for heart disease, obesity, diabetes and other diseases in the long run.
"Meat, diary products and eggs are the main culprits in the obesity epidemic. Meat production is also a leading cause of water depletion, soil erosion and most other environmental problems, according to United Nations scientists."
Susan Poole, head of St Barnabas, and Jane Ridgewell, head of Highfields Primary, declined to comment.

"AMAZING" FESTIVAL KICKS OFF

This article appears in today's Leicester Mercury:

"Amazing" festival kicks off
A cultural festival of dance, cooking, entertainment and everything Indian has kicked-off.
This weekend, the city's Cultural Quarter is hosting the third annual Indian Summer. Festival director Bipin Anand promised the best yet.
He said: "It's going to be an amazing festival. Since we started in 2011, we have refined and perfected the festival and now have nine venues and will make good use of the Cultural Quarter.
"We've got some great guests, including the comic Paul Chowdhry, and people can learn how to make a great curry, have a go at different dances. There are more than 100 things for people to enjoy."

Friday, 28 June 2013

THIS WEEK'S VISITORS (1,894)


Here are the top ten countries from which the blog has received visits in the past week.
  1. United States 437
  2. Russia 411
  3. United Kingdom 366
  4. Germany 239
  5. Slovenia 115
  6. China 109
  7. France 80
  8. Netherlands 73
  9. India 32
  10. Ukraine 32

This week's total: 1,894 (last week: 2,240). 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.

MEET TAIWO (TONY) ROTIMI

Taiwo (Tony) Rotimi
An appointment this morning with Taiwo (Tony) Rotimi, Project Manager of LACBA (Leicester African Caribbean Business Association) Enterprise Academy, which is based in the Melbourne Centre in Highfields. 

I'm here to discuss a couple of book proposals that Tony's been nursing for a while. I've worked with him before in a freelance capacity on a number of titles published under his name, but we haven't done anything together for some years now. We met recently at a workshop run by the Heritage Lottery Fund at Voluntary Action LeicesterShire and thought it a good time to renew working relations. The last few titles we worked on were The 365 Tools to a Fulfilled Life, Short Quotable Bible Verses and Behind the Clouds. In case you haven't seen or heard of any of these books, faithful reader, you can check them out by clicking on the respective titles or by visiting the website of the publisher, Platinum Consolidated.

Tony invites me to attend the launch of his latest book (one in which I wasn't involved), Understanding the Person of the Holy Spirit in a few weeks at the New Covenant Church. That'll be nice.

Tony belongs to Leicester Pastors Forum and he offers to raise the topic of establishing working relations between this body and Leicester Council of Faiths at one of their future meetings. This would be a good thing, as the Council of Faiths has never managed to establish strong relations with African Heritage Churches in the city. If Tony can help rectify this, then he'll be doing us all a favour.

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

MY CRAZY WEEK: GET READY FOR AN INDIAN SUMMER

This article appears in today's Leicester Mercury:

Bipin Anand
My crazy week: get ready for An Indian Summer
Monday: It begins on the back of four hours' sleep for the third day in a row – a whole lot of coffee and the excitement of the impending An Indian Summer (AIS) festival will keep me going, writes Bipin Anand.
After gulping my coffee, I head to the Curve theatre to run through the 20-odd AIS activities they will be hosting from June 27 to 30.
I grab a quick lunch on the mad dash back to the office where there are e-mails to be answered and social media to update. I attend a daily festival team meeting in the afternoon and then head back to the office and catch up with the leaflet and event guide distribution team.
Tuesday: Another early start. I do an interview on Tommy Sandhu's Breakfast Show on BBC Asian Network, meet with local car park owners to organise parking for An Indian Summer artists and continue inviting people from the UK/Europe to An Indian Summer, which is now just nine days away.
Soon it's 5pm and I realise I've forgotten to have lunch and grab a quick sandwich. I fire off a few e-mails, plough through paperwork and finally go home exhausted – at 10.30pm. I sign off after midnight, even with the buzz of the festival I just can't work anymore.
Wednesday: Arriving at the office I find three team members already there hard at work, everyone's so excited, it's a great atmosphere!The morning is spent setting up interviews with Pukaar News before a lunch meeting with AIS project and event managers Swati and Jiten.
The team is buzzing with the announcement that Leicester has made the final four of the City of Culture finalists! I pop over to the University of Leicester to run through details of their involvement in the AIS launch, meet with Phoenix's CEO to run through details for next year's AIS, and confirm transport for tabla artist Mayur Narvekar (arriving by flight from India) is all good for the following day.
Thursday: I'm jolted awake with a mixture of nerves and excitement at the realisation that there is now just one week to go. I have a meeting with AIS media team coordinator, Simon Aitchison, a health and safety walk through with my brother and event manager Jiten.
Lunch is delivered by my wonderful mum on her way to work. I edit video footage, help with leaflet distribution and attend a meeting with the manager of Chutney Ivy to discuss our launch – in aid of Unique Homes for Girls – next Wednesday. A break is much-needed so I switch off my phone and sneak off to catch a movie at Phoenix.
Friday: After a jog and meditation session, I am fired up and ready for the day ahead. I'm greeted by Gurdeep, AIS's creative director, and the decoration team – they will be putting into action the AIS decoration plan as of today. I attend the City of Culture team meeting as one of the executive board members of the bid team. A day of meetings, run-throughs with the team follow before I pack up slightly early, head home and put my feet up – an awesome feeling.
Bipin Anand is festival director of An Indian Summer, from June 27-30 in Leicester's Cultural Quarter

MERCURY OPINION: GOLDEN MILE GATEWAYS ARE A GREAT IDEA

This is from the Mercury Opinion column in today's Leicester Mercury:
Golden Mile gateways are a great idea
Belgrave traders have raised the idea of large Indian-style gateways to mark either end of Leicester's Golden Mile. It would create a landmark in a similar way to the Oriental arches in Manchester's Chinatown. Leicester Mayor Sir Peter Soulsby is enthusiastic about the idea and would support it if the traders were to pay for it themselves. That last point touches on the issue of how this would be funded and that does not appear to be entirely clear yet.
Notwithstanding that potential stumbling block, it is an excellent idea. This area of Leicester is already scheduled for a major change with the demolition of the Belgrave flyover next year. This has caused some anxiety among motorists. However, there are many benefits to the area itself. The Belgrave flyover is an unattractive structure which separates the Golden Mile from the city centre. Its demolition will remove that barrier.
The creation of the landmarks being proposed by the traders would further add to the character and distinctiveness of this area and make it more of an attraction to visitors to the city. It has a fine array of shops and this would help to make them even more of an attraction. One would imagine, however, that landmarks of this nature would be expensive and the crucial issue is coming up with a funding plan. We would love to see this idea get off the ground.

LARGE GATEWAYS PLAN FOR ENDS OF THE GOLDEN MILE

This article appears in today's Leicester Mercury:

The distinctive gates in Chinatown, Manchester
Large gateways plan for ends of the Golden Mile
by Dan Martin
Large Indian-style gateways could be put up to mark either end of Leicester's Golden Mile.
Businesses along the busy shopping street in Belgrave are looking at establishing landmarks similar to the Oriental arches in Manchester's Chinatown.
Traders' representatives have been holding discussions with city mayor Sir Peter Soulsby about the idea.
Sir Peter said: "It is an idea that has come forward from the traders as a way of demonstrating the identity of the Golden Mile.
"They have expressed an interest in getting something at either end which would show people when they are entering what is a specialist shopping area.
"They want something at the city end and something at the Melton Road end.
"I have seen Chinatown (in Manchester) and it looks good. I think something similar could work here.
"There is a precedent for doing this in the city already – the arch at the entrance to the market, though that is much more modest than what is being considered."
Sir Peter said he was enthusiastic about the idea and would support it if the traders were to pay for it themselves.
He said the planned demolition of the Belgrave fly-over, set to take place after Sainsbury's relocates from Belgrave to Melton Road at the end of this year, could allow some sort of new public art feature.He said: "It is an idea in its very early stages."
Dharmesh Lakhani, chairman of the Belgrave Business Association, said: "We are looking for something that makes people think of India and the subcontinent, but with elements of Leicester and the UK.
"It could well be a gateway and we could then use an image of it as branding all along the Golden Mile. It would be lovely to have something like that.
"We are not certain yet how it would fit in with the road structure or the space available.
"Whatever we do, it will be something that reinforces the character of the Golden Mile and encourages people to visit."
Mr Lakhani said people in the area would be asked what design they would like to see in place. Children at Abbey Primary School have already come up with a series of designs that could be considered.
Leicester East MP Keith Vaz said: "The Golden Mile is a defined area of shopping excellence known across the country and I think it is a great idea.
"It would come into its own at the time of Diwali.
"It is an ambitious idea and I will support it."
Travel agent Dipak Varadia, 51, from Brandon Street, off Belgrave Road, said: "We should definitely do this. At the moment, that big, ugly concrete fly-over hardly says 'Welcome to the Golden Mile'.
"When it has gone, we can replace it with something beautiful."

Saturday, 22 June 2013

MEDIEVAL MYSTIC WILL BE TALK OF THE CHURCH

This article appears in today's Leicester Mercury:
Medieval mystic will be talk of the church
Bishop Street Methodist Church in Leicester is holding another of its Talks in the Chapel series.
After talks on Richard III, Christmas carols and the 50th anniversary of the religious best-seller Honest to God, the next topic will be Hildegard of Bingen, the medieval mystic.
Hildegard was an independent thinker and artist who led a convent of nuns in Rupertsberg, in the Rhineland. She wrote poetry, composed songs, drew pictures and wrote about medicine and natural history.
The talk will be on Thursday, July 4, between 6.15pm and 7.15pm. Admission is free.

FIRST PERSON: FAITH SCHOOLS HELP REINFORCE SOCIAL DIVISIONS

Harry Perry has written the First Person column in today's Leicester Mercury:

Faith schools help reinforce social divisions
State education must not be allowed to discriminate by religion, says Harry Perry of Leicester Secular Society
All state-funded schools should be open to all children regardless of their parents' religion. Seems obvious when stated like that, doesn't it? Taxpayers from across the belief spectrum pay for our state schools yet there is in our country a Government-promoted policy for large numbers of publicly funded schools to be allowed to discriminate on the basis of parents' beliefs.
Why should that be? We also pay for the NHS, police and armed forces, for roads and social services and for the criminal justice system, yet nobody would dream of arguing aspects of these should be managed differently for people with different beliefs. So it should be for schools.
Even where faith schools have made pledges to ensure a mixed intake, we find admissions are skewed towards children of their own religion.
A national campaign has been launched to oppose religiously selective school admissions policies. It is called the Fair Admissions Campaign and you can easily find it on the web.
This campaign is particularly relevant in Leicester, where diversity of beliefs and communal harmony are trumpeted as our unique selling point in a world where religious conflict is a growing threat to international peace.
Elsewhere, we hear of children from families with the "wrong" beliefs being forced to travel far to find a non-discriminatory school.
There is a growing trend for parents to lie about their religious beliefs and even to attend services as part of the deception, in order to get their kids into a favoured school. How can that be a good example?
The most dramatically segregated schooling system in the UK is in Northern Ireland, but even there, after decades of civil strife, politicians are now pressing for integration.
Why is it important? It must be clear – especially from recent events – that so many of the tensions and conflicts in the UK and elsewhere are based on faith and ethnic divisions. Our communities remain riven by the differences which we should be learning to set aside.
Religiously selective schools cannot, of course, be held solely responsible for these problems, but they do underpin a system in which children learn they are different. They do not build friendships with others and the separation of children within schools reinforces wider divisions, as parents do not meet at the school gate.
It is vital individuals throughout the education system recognise and adhere to an inter-cultural approach that seeks at every opportunity to get people to mix rather than living with a constant emphasis on difference.

WHY WOULD THEY WANT TO VISIT US?

This letter appears in today's Leicester Mercury:
Why would they want to visit us?
All right, so Leicester has been shortlisted in the final four to be the City of Culture 2017, but what does it mean for us the people of Leicester?
Firstly, it means our leader, Sir Peter Soulsby, can throw more good money (that we have not got) at a project (that we may not get).
Why, and for what purpose?
In my opinion, Leicester is not fit for the purpose.
Why would anybody want to come to Leicester, when we have the following:
Bus service not fit for purpose.
A city centre you cannot drive into.
At least three entertainment venues that rely on the council for support.
Untidy streets.
High Street and shopping centres with empty shops.
With exception of the Leicester Tigers, no sporting achievements.
Every week at least one or two fast food outlets closed due to environmental or health concerns.
This list is not exhaustive and no doubt other readers could add their own thoughts.
I for one would not go out of my way to visit Leicester if it was selected as City of Culture 2017.
Ian G Lambert, Leicester

BIGGER ISSUES THAN CITY OF CULTURE BID

This letter appears in today's Leicester Mercury:
Bigger issues than City of Culture bid
What's this City of Culture bid all about? Do we win a load of cash or will we be expected to spend loads of taxpayers' cash?
There are far more important things that need to be sorted out in Leicester before bothering about being a City of Culture, which seems to me to be a popularity contest between councils.
It would seem councillors and the mayor are putting this city forward for things they say make a great deal of difference to the city.
Yet I recall Liverpool being a city of culture some time ago. All it seems to have got for its trouble was a concert by Sir Paul McCartney and a load of metal figures on a beach, which contribute nothing to the wellbeing of society in general while quietly rusting away.
If we are, as those involved say, a City of Culture, why is the Haymarket theatre closed and been unused for years?
Why is De Montfort Hall, built as a temporary theatre years ago, still in existence?
Why do we not have a large arena capable of attracting the big and really popular acts, events and musicians to this city, instead of us having to traipse to Coventry, Birmingham and Nottingham?
This bid seems like a waste of money and time to me.
Of course, I shall expect Leicester City Council not to keep us properly informed of events.
They have been rubbish at advertising events in Leicester.
Bernard Fox, Leicester

PILGRIMS FEARED TO BE CAUGHT UP IN INDIAN FLOODS

This article appears in today's Leicester Mercury:

Cllr Manjula Sood, Chair of Leicester Council of Faiths
Pilgrims feared to be caught up in Indian floods
by Peter Warzynski
Religious leaders fear families from Leicestershire could be trapped by floods in the Indian city of Haridwar.
Hundreds of people have been killed in the pilgrimage destination in northern India, following heavy monsoon rains.
Landslides and flash floods caused by the River Ganges bursting its banks have washed away at least 500 people, according to the latest reports.
The charity Action Aid said thousands of people were missing.
Many of those unaccounted for are pilgrims visiting Hindu shrines and temples.
Leicester organisation the Gujarati Hindu Association said it feared local pilgrims could be among the missing.
Spokesman Hemendra Mistry said: "This is an important pilgrimage site.
"We have heard of three tour groups from Leicester which had gone to the region on pilgrimage.
"We're trying to find out whether they were in the area at the time of the flooding.
"We are trying to gauge exactly who's been affected, but it's too early to say how many local families are involved."
The Indian government has launched a huge rescue operation.
However, the Indian Army has not yet been able to reach some of the more remote parts of the mountainous terrain.
Indian officials said that more than 33,000 pilgrims were still missing as of yesterday.
Maganbhai Patel, president of the Gujarati Hindu Association, said: "I've heard that a lot of people have been washed away and temples have been washed away, too.
"The area is devastated and it will take a long time before anything is back to normal.
"My heart goes out to the friends and families of those involved and of course they will be in our thoughts and prayers."
A Hindu temple in Leicester has organised an event to pray for the victims of the disaster.
Hundreds of people are expected to visit Shree Sanatan Mandir, in Weymouth Street, tomorrow to take part in the vigil.
Temple president Ramanbhai Barber said: "A lot of people from Leicester go to that area at this time of year because it's a very popular pilgrimage site.
"I was there last year and when I saw the recent pictures of the flood on television, I thought 'oh wow, there may be people I know there'.
"I've got a lot of friends who wanted to go and I'm not sure who is there and who isn't, but they're in my prayers that they're safe."
Manjula Sood, chairman of Leicester Council of Faiths, said: "I will be at the temple on Sunday to pray for those affected.
"It's very difficult to hear about everything that's going on, especially when we have such a strong connection to the area.
"It's a very holy place for Hindus. People even travel there to scatter the ashes of their family when they die.
"We're here for the people going though a difficult time and showing solidarity."
The flooding has been caused by some of the heaviest rains recorded in Uttarakhand in 60 years.
Scores of homes, hotels and bridges have been destroyed.

DOZENS EXPECTED AT CITY PEACE MARCH

This article appears in today's Leicester Mercury:

Dozens expected at city peace march
A peaceful procession to make a stand against extremism following the murder of Lee Rigby is to take place in Leicester tomorrow.
Dozens of people are expected to take part in a march from Town Hall Square to the war memorial at Victoria Park, where a two-minute silence and a wreath-laying ceremony will be held in memory of the soldier.
The event is being organised by Leicester Strong, a support group formed through Facebook, and will be followed by a family day to raise money for two forces charities – Help for Heroes and Scotty's Little Soldiers.
It is part of a nationwide campaign involving groups across the country and is being held to coincide with Drummer Rigby's funeral.
Co-organiser Julie Hogben, of Groby, said: "I come from a family of military people and when I saw what had happened to Lee Rigby it just devastated me. He had been to Afghanistan and survived then this happens on our own streets in broad daylight.
"We wish to invite people from all walks of life, regardless of colour or religion, everyone who wants to make this a safer place to live.
"We need to stand strong together against extremism and hate preachers.
"Our Government should be ensuring these people are off our streets."
Julie was hoping to see about 150 people taking part.
The family event will be held at The Donkey, in Welford Road, following the wreath-laying.
People who want to join the procession are asked to meet at Town Hall Square from 11.30am. The march will begin at noon, with the group set to arrive at Victoria Park for 12.55pm.
For more details, visit: www.facebook.com/ LeicesterStrong

Friday, 21 June 2013

THIS WEEK'S VISITORS (2,240)


Here are the top ten countries from which the blog has received visits in the past week.
  1. United States 693
  2. United Kingdom 661
  3. Russia 387
  4. Germany 106
  5. France 98
  6. Ukraine 78
  7. India 76
  8. Poland 52
  9. China 46
  10. Sweden 43

This week's total: 2,240 (last week: 1,979). 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.

PIONEEERING YOUNGSTERS HELP TO FOSTER INTER-FAITH UNDERSTANDING IN COMMUNITY

This article appears in today's Leicester Mercury:

Pioneering youngsters help to foster inter-faith understanding in community
A group of 15 young people have completed a three-day stage of an inter-faith leadership programme designed to help them achieve their potential.
St Philip's Centre, Evington, which works to build and enhance inter-faith relations, ran the Catalyst bronze programme for 16 to 24-year-olds from Wyggeston and Queen Elizabeth I College.
The course is funded by Near Neighbours through the Department for Communities and Local Government. It follows on from programmes already delivered to young people from Leicester College, Gateway College and Shree Sanatan Mandir.
Each day of Catalyst is based on a theme, including leadership attributes and styles, presentation and communication skills, running community projects and inter-faith understanding.
Another important module, decision-making, is delivered by Leicestershire Police.
Riaz Ravat, deputy director of St Philip's Centre, said: "Since Catalyst was launched in 2012, nearly 70 young people from Leicester and East London have taken part.
"These are young people in whom we have invested to develop their knowledge, skills and potential to make a positive difference to those around them.
"Catalyst specifically builds trust and good inter-faith relationships."

Thursday, 20 June 2013

TRIBUTES PAID TO TEMPLE PRESIDENT

This article appears in today's Leicester Mercury:
Tributes paid to temple president
by Peter Warzynski
One of the country's longest-running Sikh temple presidents has died while on holiday in India.
Omparkash Chand, 63, was in the Punjab visiting family and buying religious ornaments for the Shri Guru Ravidass Gurdwara, in Harrison Road, Leicester – where he had been president since 1997.
Colleagues said they believed he may have been the longest-serving head of a Sikh temple in the world.
Mr Chand died in his sleep on June 7 and was brought back to Leicester last Saturday.
However, a post-mortem examination could not determine a cause of death.
Tributes have poured in for the community leader, who lived in Scraptoft with his wife and son. Mr Chand's brother, Kamaljit Mahi, 53, said the family was shocked at the sudden death of the temple president.
"The post-mortem couldn't find a cause of death, but they've taken some tissue samples to see if they can determine what happened.
"It's a big shock and across the family we're all trying to help each other," he said.
"He was a good-natured person and will be sadly missed, not just by the Sikh community – but by Christians and Hindus. He did a lot of work with other people."
Friend and fellow temple member Dev Diwana said: "We believe he is the longest consecutive running president of a Sikh temple in the UK, if not the world.
"That's one of the most impressive things about him. He served the Sikh community with an open heart and he was a great man – he was a picture of calm.
"He'd only been in India for a few days before he died, but he had no health issues which anyone knew of."
Surinderpal Singh Rai, of Leicestershire Council of Gurdwaras, said: "Omprakash Chand was a very dear friend of mine.
"He tirelessly served the Sikh community for well over 40 years and the newly-built Shri Guru Ravidass Gurdwara is a testimony to this.
"He will be dearly missed."
Mr Chand's funeral is tomorrow.
His body will arrive at the Shri Guru Ravidass Gurdwara, at 11.15am, before leaving for Gilroes Cemetery at 11.45am.
It will arrive at the cemetery, in Groby Road, at about 12.15pm.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

GROUPS AWARDED LOTTERY FUNDING

This article appears in today's Leicester Mercury:

Fiona Kinsey, resource centre manager for Network for Change
Groups awarded lottery funding
by Cathy Buss
Two groups, one which helps families and the other which helps people with mental health problems, have won more than £500,000 from the Big Lottery Fund.
Home-Start Leicester has been awarded £334,370 from the lottery's reaching communities programme.
The group will use the money to train new volunteers to help support families under stress.
Helen Everett, chairman of the trustees of Home-Start Leicester, said: "It is fantastic news. It means we can continue our much-needed support to families in the city and recruit more volunteers and staff. This will secure the future of the service to children and families for the next four years."
Volunteers from the organisation, which has been running in the city for 40 years, visit a family's home once a week to offer support.
They can help with stimulating play activities for children, parenting strategies and accessing services.
Lottery cash will go towards new projects to increase parents' confidence, encourage children's emotional and social readiness for school and promote healthy lifestyles.
Home-Start Leicester has 28 home-visiting volunteers and in the past year supported 71 families.
It has just two members of staff but two more full-time posts will be created.
The city-based Network for Change organisation has been awarded £244,184 from the lottery's reaching communities programme.
It can now expand its work with adults with severe and complex mental health problems.
Gabby Briner, chief executive at Network for Change, said: "There are a high number of people in Leicester with severe and complex mental health issues who are often socially isolated and struggle to access support to keep well, prevent crisis and cope with life.
"Our Mind The Gap project will provide an exciting programme of individual and peer support, plus therapeutic, social and coping strategies, groups and activities."
Fiona Kinsey, resource centre manager for Network for Change, said: "This lottery funding will make a huge difference to us."

Monday, 17 June 2013

FAITH AWARENESS SUMMER VISITS: NEVE SHALOM LPJC SYNAGOGUE


The Faith Awareness series of summer visits to places of worship and other faith-related sites in Leicester continues this evening at Neve Shalom, the synagogue of Leicester Progressive Jewish Congregation. As well being contracted to work 20 hours a week for Leicester Council of Faiths, I now do a day and a half a week with Faith Awareness, the inter-faith programme of Christians Aware.

Neve Shalom means "Oasis of Peace" (Isaiah 32:18). The Synagogue is named after a village near Jerusalem known as Neve Shalom / Wahat al Salam, where Jews, Christians and Muslims live and work together for the common good. The village is an inspiration to Jewish people, in Leicester and farther afield. The distinctive building, designed by celebrated Leicester architect Ernest Gimson, has an interesting history of its own. This is hinted at in an article by Olwen Hughes, published in the Leicester Mercury in January 2013 and reproduced in my blog.

I've made half a dozen visits to the LPJC Synagogue since my first time in July 2011, and have always enjoyed the hospitality of the community there. 

We're keeping up good numbers on these Monday evening visits. We've brought along a dozen people this evening (half of them newbies) and we're matched one-to-one by members of the LPJC.


The original theme for this series of visits was "food and festivals". Our hosts this evening have stuck to that theme. Dov Stekel gives a short talk about the theory of kosher food and its place in the life of the community. That's followed up by a practical demonstration, with a delightful spread of food and drink linked to different occasions in the Jewish calendar.


This is the fifth of six Faith Awareness visits planned for Monday evenings in May and June, the others being
I may not be able to attend every visit personally, but I hope to arrange for a blog post on each of them. Watch this space!

SERVICE MARKS 40 YEARS SINCE UGANDAN EXODUS

This article appears in today's Leicester Mercury:

Service marks 40 years since Ugandan exodus
by David W Owen
Leicester Cathedral was the venue for a service commemorating the 40th anniversary of Asians ordered out of Idi Amin’s Ugandan dictatorship finding a new home in the city.
Saturday's thanksgiving service was led by the Bishop of Leicester, the Rt Rev Tim Stevens, with Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Eric Pickles special guest of honour.
More than 28,000 people arrived in Britain from Uganda in 1972, with7,000 choosing to settle in Leicester despite an advertising campaign warning them not to come to the city.
The service, however, celebrated their positive contribution to the city – in the fields of business, the professions, politics, arts and science.
Bishop Tim said: “It was a great pleasure that Leicester Cathedral was chosen as the venue to give thanks for the contribution of the Ugandan Asian community.
“The service recognised the importance of friendship and generosity, as shown both by those who came to our city 40 years ago under such desperate circumstances, and those who welcomed them to a strange land and opened their homes and hearts, in the best tradition of the faiths of this city.”

THREE TAKE OATHS AS DEPUTY LIEUTENANTS OF COUNTY

This article appears in today's Leicester Mercury:
Three take oaths as Deputy Lieutenants of county
Three Deputy Lieutenants have been commissioned under oath in honour of their service to the community.
The Lord Lieutenant of Leicestershire, Jennifer, Lady Gretton, made the appointments at a ceremony at Beaumanor Hall.
Deputy Ramanbhai Barber, of, Leicester, is president of Shree Sanatan Mandir, in the city, and an executive member of Leicester Council of Faiths.
Janie Martin, of Woodhouse Eaves, is county president of the Royal British Legion (Women's section) and president of the Friends of Charnwood Forest.
Dr Bridget Towle, of Loughborough, is president of Girlguiding Leicestershire and a member of the University of Leicester's Council.

Saturday, 15 June 2013

BUDDHIST HOUSE BBQ


This evening I'm at The Buddhist House, Narborough, for a vegetarian barbecue and garden evening. It's been raining quite heavily, off and on, for most of the day, and there's quite a downpour on the way here (hailstones in the middle of June, for goodness sake). But it stops and the sky clears around 1830, so enjoyment of the evening isn't dampened.

This is my first visit to The Buddhist House, though it's not for want of being asked. I recall that one of the earliest activities in which I took part after being appointed to this post six years ago was a Buddhist-Christian dialogue session in Bishop Street Methodist Chapel, next door to the Council of Faiths HQ in Town Hall Square. It was certainly the first Saturday event I attended on the job.

The Buddhist House is home to the Tariki Trusta community of people who believe that Buddhism is something to be lived, not merely a practice to be fitted in during a busy day. The name Tariki means "other-power" in Japanese, a fundamental concept in Pureland Buddhism. It's the basis for Other-Centred Approach, the model of psychology underpinning the psychotherapy taught on Tariki courses, which are offered at The Buddhist House.

It's a fine, rambling house of character and distinction, dating from around 1900, with a garden to match. There's a Buddha statue nestled under a lime tree.


I get the chance to chat with some interesting people, each of them with different manners of association with The Buddhist House or for being here this evening. I also discuss briiefly with Carolyn Brazier tentative plans to start an informal collective group bringing together the many and varied groups of Buddhists in Leicester and Leicester. I've been asked to help get that going as an "honest broker" working with and between most of these groups.

I also propose that The Buddhist House be fitted into next year's programme of Faith Awareness summer visits to places of worship and faith-related sites in and around Leicester. I'm sure we could fill a minibus for an evening visit here.

I honestly can't think why I haven't made the short trip out here before. I mean, the Arriva number 50 bus from Leicester city centre comes straight to the door, for goodness sake! So I have no excuse for not coming again.

Friday, 14 June 2013

THIS WEEK'S VISITORS (1,979)


Here are the top ten countries from which the blog has received visits in the past week.
  1. United Kingdom 754
  2. United States 604
  3. France 171
  4. Russia 143
  5. India 86
  6. Germany 65
  7. Ukraine 58
  8. Australia 44
  9. China 28
  10. Romania 26

This week's total: 1,979 (last week: 2,903). 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.

DIABETICS WARNED OVER FESTIVAL FASTING

This article appears in today's Leicester Mercury:
Diabetics warned over festival fasting
by Cathy Buss, Health Correspondent
A health specialist has warned thousands of Muslims suffering from diabetes to make sure they prepare properly for Ramadan.
City pharmacist Moinuddin Kolia said people must plan in advance before the religious festival, marked by fasting, or risk major health problems.
Those observing Ramadan will not eat or drink during daylight hours.
Mr Kolia, one of the directors of Moin's Chemist and Wellbeing Centre, in East Park Road, Spinney Hills, said he was concerned at lack of education on how people who fast should manage their diabetes medication.
He said: "This is a subject that really needs highlighting within other communities that fast, not just Muslims.
"Unless people understand what is required when fasting, it can be very dangerous and cause major health problems, such as low blood glucose levels, which can lead to a coma. In some circumstances, it can be fatal.
"Diabetes is something which needs to be managed properly throughout the year and Ramadan is no exception.
"What we are finding in general is a lack of education among many diabetics on how to manage their medication.
"With Ramadan falling at the peak of summer, with long hours, it is more important that those affected understand what they have to do.
"In the majority of situations, it will probably be a simple case of educating patients on how to manage medication, what to do if they have a hypoglycaemic attack when sugar levels fall very low and how the Ramadan diet will affect their diabetes.
"Some people do not realise if their diabetes is very severe they are not expected to fast."
This year, Ramadan begins on July 9 for 30 days.
Moin's Chemist, which recently opened a pharmacy in Market Harborough, has teamed up with experts at the University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust and the Leicester Diabetes Centre, which includes experts from the University of Leicester, to produce a number of ways to help those who are fasting.
This includes a diabetic specialist nurse and a pharmacist who have been running a series of workshops for patients. They have also produced a guide for diabetics called Fasting Toolkit for type two diabetics, which can be picked up from the store.
Mr Kolia said: "Most people who want to fast can do safely."

CHURCH SEES LARGE RISE IN WORSHIPPERS

This article appears in today's Leicester Mercury:

The commissioning of a new Anglican church in Belgrave, which worships in a range of languages, in 2012, has boosted numbers
Church sees large rise in worshippers
by Tim Healy
Nearly 2,000 people have joined Church of England congregations across Leicestershire, a survey has revealed.
Many parishes are reporting that numbers attending services are on the increase following years of decline.
The figures for 2012 have just been published by the Diocese of Leicester, from responses sent in by more than 300 churches.
It means that across the diocese, more than 22,000 people are now regular members of an Anglican worshipping community.
The Bishop of Leicester the Rt Rev Tim Stevens said: "These figures reveal that in times of austerity people are looking for deeper satisfaction and meaning in their lives.
"Churches that are welcoming, responsive and prayerful increasingly meet that need."
The survey detailed many reasons people were prompted to find out more about the Christian faith, with a newer form of all-age, more creative church entitled Messy Church being one of the most popular.
A new multilingual congregation in All Saints, Belgrave was set up last year.
A parish spokesman said: "We have managed to reach out, resulting in 16 people being baptised, including those of other faith backgrounds."
Other churches have been involved in projects to feed those in need.
In Ashby, the CAP (Christians Against Poverty) Midlands National Forest Centre has continued to provide debt counselling and advice to an increasing number of clients.
The Rev Barry Hill, who is responsible for mission in the diocese, said: "This report brings much good news, not least that more than 22,000 Christians of all ages are showing they live, work, study, play and socialise together and that God makes a difference in their lives, in that there is much more with Jesus than without.
"The most reassuring trend is that the increase is a small and steady trend across a large number of churches, so is likely to be sustainable."
About 12,500 people attend worship on an average Sunday, and a further 3,000 on weekdays.
The number of people who attended Anglican services at Christmas 2012 was 36,800 – the highest number since 2008.
Details from the parish showed the majority of churches surveyed, 215, had Sunday congregations of fewer than 50.
There were 40 congregations of between 51 and 100, 16 between 101 and 150, nine of 151 to 250 and two of more than 250.
However, the parish returns show the average age of a worshipper remains about 14 years older than the population as a whole. This is illustrated by 465 members of churches dying in the past year.
The research, conducted annually, is available in full on the Diocese of Leicester website: www.leicester.anglican.org

Thursday, 13 June 2013

ANSWER LIES IN UNITY, NOT "TERRORISTS" OF THE FAR RIGHT

This letter appears in today's Leicester Mercury:
Answer lies in unity, not "terrorists" of the far right
Last month, we witnessed the brutal murder of a solider as he walked down a street near his home.
Within hours the word "terrorism" was being used to describe the attack and if it transpires this was indeed a politically or religiously-motivated murder then there would be considerable justification for using this term.
The aftermath of Lee Rigby's death also saw a rise in attacks on mosques and Muslims.
If "terrorism" is to be used so quickly to describe the actions of the Woolwich murderers, then surely this term equally applies to these attacks.
Elements of the far right, in their misguided defence of their concept of England, have sought to create fear among other communities – the very definition of terror.
The right-wing media is generally quick to use labels such as "hate preacher" for those few individuals advocating violence in the name of a particular religion, but, so far, most are reluctant to use the term to describe the leaders of the far right.
While the leaders of certain organisations may say they are encouraging peaceful protest, their words influence others to commit acts of violence.
It is not enough, though, to dismiss extremists of all shades as evil and to ignore the underlying issues which motivate their actions. To ignore them is to frustrate them to further acts of hatred.
As a socialist, I perceive these underlying causes in terms of class.Successive neo-liberal governments have sought to devastate the working class.
Some groups have been unfairly subjected to racism and discrimination while others have been completely ignored, or condemned as "workshy shirkers".
We have witnessed our industry disappear and our core values, such as solidarity, replaced with rampant individualism.
Now, especially during this economic crisis, we are all competing for an ever-decreasing slice of the pie.
It is no wonder working class communities turn on each other to compete for jobs, services, dignity and respect.
The answer, though, does not lie in looking to the far right: the answer lies in acknowledging what we all have in common, regardless of race, religion or country of origin.
It is in our shared interest not to fight each other but to fight against the injustices brought upon us by the elites of politics, banking and big business.
As a final point, it is to the credit of trade union, community and faith groups which have sought to heal the divisions in our society by taking steps to bring people together.
It is much more difficult to hate someone if you find you have something in common with them.
Matt Widdowson, Leicester