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As-Suffa Outreach’s Interfaith Work in Local Community

“The best of people are those who bring most benefit to others.”
[Prophet Muhammad, may the peace of God be upon Him]

This past year has been a busy one for As-Suffa but this is nothing to complain about- we know that the busier our Outreach Team is, the more progress is being made in our community. Here’s a look back to some of the interfaith projects we have been involved in recently:

Interfaith Food Outreach

The 2nd Annual Interfaith Food Outreach was a huge success. The event saw 3 Faiths coming together on 17th November 2017 to feed the needy during the Interfaith Week 2017. A total of 65 people were fed with fresh hot meals and hot drinks with delicious cake desserts. Apart from food beings served, the faiths also donated Food Items for the As Suffa Food Bank.

Due to the success of this 2nd Interfaith Food Outreach event, the 3 faiths agreed to have more of these events outside the Interfaith Week and will now be planning to host the event on a monthly basis. Click to view event photos here

Mayor and Faith Conference
Alongside other faith representatives, As-Suffa was invited to a conference organised by the Mayor of the West Midlands. Issues like hate crime, economy and leadership were discussed at Bham
University. It was a landmark event with even Theresa May tweeting her support! “Faith communities form one of the greatest sources of strength, vitality and resilience in our community.”

Birmingham Conversations
Open Discussion in a City of Faiths Taking part in the great Birmingham Conversations scheme has been a wonderful experience. We met lovely people with visions similar to our own to promote a harmonious, faith-tolerant society. Platforms like this and the Birmingham Council of Faiths, of which we are also a proud member and participant, work hard to bring important issues to the fore and ensure the faith communities are given a voice.

“No To Guns & Knives, Yes To Life”
Our ‘No To Guns & Knives, Yes To Life’ Campaign seeks to raise awareness of the dangers of violence, in particular the gang culture of knives and guns. We work closely with the local community and have partaken in peace walks, school assemblies and safety conferences. People of all faiths and none unite with the common goal of preserving the safety of each member of our community.

We have had some great opportunities this year to contribute to interfaith dialogue such as the great Birmingham Conversations scheme where people of different faiths and none provide ideas and support to encourage assimilation and understanding. We have also had chances to showcase some of our own outreach work as well as appreciate some of the other excellent work being done around the city to promote an inclusive, appreciative and unified society, such as through our invitation to the civic reception of the Lord Mayor hosted by the Niskham Group.

Click here to download full report.

IFN Circular 06/18 – Integrated Communities Strategy Green Paper

Dear Inter Faith Network contact,

Earlier today, Communities Secretary Sajid Javid announced the publication of a Green Paper consulting on the proposed Integrated Communities Strategy.

The Green Paper invites views on the Government’s vision for building strong integrated communities “where people – whatever their background – live, work, learn and socialise together, based on shared rights, responsibilities and opportunities”. It sets out a programme of actions it proposes to take across Government to deliver this vision at the local and national level.

Key proposals in the Green Paper include:

  • identifying priority policies and services to review across government to determine how they can drive integration;
  • testing a package of information for recent migrants to support them to integrate into their communities and to build understanding of life in Britain;
  • addressing the segregation of schools along ethnic or faith lines that exists in some places, even where the local population is very diverse, for example by promoting mixing and twinning arrangements between schools in areas of high segregation;
  • developing a new strategy for English Language in England, to improve the coordination of provision to learners and help improve their outcomes;
  • trialling new approaches through Jobcentre Plus to break down the barriers to employment and support people from isolated communities into work; and
  • empowering marginalised women, including exploring the legal and practical challenges of limited reform of the law on marriage so that civil marriages are conducted before or at the same time as religious ceremonies.

The Green Paper also sets out “a new localised approach to delivering these policy priorities”. It says that this approach recognises that integration challenges are not uniform throughout the country so tailored local plans and interventions are needed to address the issues that are specific to a particular place.   This local approach will be trialled initially in five Integration Areas – Blackburn with Darwen, Bradford, Peterborough, Walsall and Waltham Forest.

Faith communities, religious organisations and inter faith engagement are mentioned at a number of points in the document.

The Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government indicates that it wishes to engage widely as it consults on the Integrated Communities Strategy Green Paper, “to start a debate with individuals, communities and organisations about the most effective ways to address integration challenges”.

The Green Paper can be found at and a copy is also attached.  The consultation period will end on Tuesday 5 June.

Best wishes, Harriet Crabtree


View Attachment

Life without Jean (Jeanie) – One year on

Jean Rookes was, with Dr Peter Rookes, BCF joint 3rd Sector Liaison Officer for 9 years and joint Secretary for 3 years, She was active in both of these roles until a few weeks before she died.


It is now a year since my best friend, soulmate & wife died. After nearly 40 years together, Jeanie lost her brave battle against Ovarian Cancer. Although, we had known her expected life expectancy for 3 years, the suddenness of her final decline still took me by surprise. We did so much during her final year, it was as if she wanted to make the most of every single day, including our usual scouting & faith related activities, several caravanning breaks, a scout camp in September, & a walk of 5 miles around Studland Point with our rambling group in October.


In November, there was an acceleration of her decline. It was a fitting privilege; after all she had given to me, to nurse her at home for 6 weeks before she was admitted to our local hospice, where she died at peace a week later.



Before Jean died, she wanted me to make 3 promises:-

  1. Keep the grieving to a minimum & move on with my life in a positive way.
  2. Continue to raise awareness of the symptoms to reduce the early mortality from Ovarian Cancer.
  3. Continue with the charity, advocacy & humanitarian work we did together


The first of these has been the most difficult – far more difficult than I ever imagined. As my daughter, Sara-Jane, says – “you & Mum weren’t just married for nearly 40 years, you lived for each other, you did virtually everything together, & had endless conversations on every topic under the sun” I have immense admiration for all of those widows & widowers who have, with dignity, gone before me. I thank my family & friends who have supported me throughout this turbulent year.


Grieving is a strange process and different people deal with it in different ways. In my experience there are 3 grief periods for people who die following a long debilitating condition. The first period is when the diagnosis is made. I well remember Jeanie giving me a big hug and saying “I need you to be strong Pete”. I felt anything but strong at the time. The second stage is the period surrounding the actual death when I felt that Jeanie was slipping away from me and life was draining from her body. The third period was accepting that she wasn’t here anymore, our home seemed so empty, and that I had to do things on my own and go out on my own. My initial reaction was to shut myself away as I didn’t want to face anybody, not even friends at church.  Jeanie knew the difficulty I would face, and made sure that I didn’t lose contact with our networks when she was too sick to attend herself. This helped me greatly to pick up the reins when I was ready.


On the second promise, it is important that more women & their partners are aware of the early symptoms of Ovarian Cancer, principally abdominal bloating, but also urinary & intestinal complaints, which can be mistaken for cystitis or irritable bowel syndrome. Then seek early diagnosis & treatment. I have written a piece on Jean’s story, which has been uploaded to the Target Ovarian Cancer website, & can be viewed at:-


More information about Ovarian Cancer can also be accessed on this website.


The 3rd promise is probably the most straightforward in that it is continuation and extension of what I was already doing, through Birmingham Voluntary Services Council; Scouts; U3A; Birmingham Council of Faiths; USPG (United Society – Partners in the Gospel); University of Birmingham; Healthwatch; Cotteridge Church Council; & our Faiths, Health & Wellbeing seminars of which we had one on End of Life Care and one on Disability this year. In one way this is more difficult in that I miss Jean’s help and support, particularly her financial skills and attention to detail. On the other hand I have more free time, & it is easier to pursue activities which involve travelling, weekends & overnight stays.

Now I have passed the first set of anniversaries (Christmas, Birthday, Wedding Anniversary, etc), I am ready to move forward, but recognising that I will still be caught out from time to time. Please don’t hesitate to mention Jean’s name when it occurs naturally in a conversation, and try not to get too embarrassed if I occasionally shed a tear!


(Dr)Peter Rookes

KSIMC of Birmingham takes part in the festive season

By Shenaz Sajan

This year, 6 organisations joined forces with the KSIMC of Birmingham to make #LoveMuhammad’s #RosesForPeace campaign in Birmingham bigger and better than ever before, as more than 60 volunteers came together to distribute 2400 roses across Birmingham. Volunteers gathered and spent two days preparing the roses ready for distribution at the Clifton Road Mosque. On the campaign, Sheikh Nuru Mohammed explained ‘We are here to share the blessings of the festive season and to promote peaceful co-existence in our society. This campaign is fantastic and the spirit of the volunteers is incredible, and I hope that with this event, we are able to bring more unity within our community.’

To spread the message of peace, love and unity to as many people as possible, the Roses were distributed in the Town Centre, at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital and to Churches, namely St Mary’s and St Peter’s at their midnight mass service.

Queen Elizabeth Hospital

Whilst most people spent the Christmas period enjoying the time with their families, there are some heroes that gave up this luxury and work day and night, keeping our loved ones alive and breathing. To appreciate their efforts, the team went through every ward presenting the staff with Roses as a symbol of peace and love during the festive period.

They were met with tears of happiness, hugs of love and lots of smiles, with many commenting that this had made their day.

Birmingham City Centre

Young, old, male and female joined together on Christmas Eve in the City Centre handing out roses of peace to the public. Despite many being busy with their last minute Christmas shopping, they still found time to take a rose and greatly appreciated the gesture.

At a time when Muslims are portrayed as being perpetrators of evil, the Roses for peace played a key role in changing people’s perceptions of Islam. As we spoke to people, they were delighted to receive a rose and would cherish it.

A passer-by, Bobby told us ‘You’ve truly made my day. After watching the news, I thought there was no hope left in humanity, but you have restored my faith in humanity. As a Christian, we have much more in common with Muslims that that which divides us, and I’m so glad you’re here giving out  roses.’

Midnight Mass at St Mary’s Church (Moseley)

Each Rose contains a message of peace from the Bible as well as from the Prophet Muhammed (Pbuh), in an effort to unite Muslims with Christians. With this in mind, over 120 of our members attended the Midnight Mass to remember the birth of Prophet Jesus. Roses and some irresistible Mitthai were given out as we came together and prayed for a better world.

These were warmly received, as bonds were built and bridges formed between the Muslim and Christian communities in Birmingham. Richard a minister told us ‘It is my dream that Muslims and Christians come together. We are truly overwhelmed with appreciation with the efforts that Muslims are putting in, to bring about a more united and cohesive society, one in which peace and harmony prevail.’

I would like to take this opportunity to thank #LoveMuhammed and the partnering organisations for their assistance and making the 2017 #Rosesforpeace campaign such a success:

HOPE not Hate, the Islamic Society of Britain, University of Birmingham and Aston AhlulBayt Societies, WF Aid and Lady Zainab Helping Hands.

Civic Chanukah Candle Lighting

Civic Chanukah Candle Lighting

The Birmingham and West Midlands Jewish Community’s 1st Civic Chanukah Candle Lighting took place in rooms 3 and 4 at the Council House, and from the feedback received from invited guests, it was a great success. The Lord Mayor and the Leader of the Council together with a number of Councillors,  joined representatives of different faiths, members of committees and groups with which the community has involvement, and individuals who through their work or in a voluntary capacity, engage with the Representative Council and  community organizations, for the event.

Representative Council Chair, Ruth Jacobs welcomed the guests, and Cllr Dr Barry Henley introduced and invited the Lord Mayor, Cllr Anne Underwood, to speak. After this, a short film, explaining the historical significance about the festival and how it is celebrated, was shown. Barry Henley lit the first candle and then the Lord Mayor, the Leader of the Council, the Dean of Birmingham Cathedral, and Muslim,Hindu and Sikh representatives lit the next 6 candles. The 7th and last candle for that evening was lit by Max Rueff, a member of the King David School Choir which sang then Ma’oz Tsur and a number of Chanukah songs in Hebrew and English, one of which was accompanied by Max on his recorder. The Choir’s performance was definitely the highlight of the event with the choir receiving a rapturous round of applause and many compliments. Whilst doughnuts, biscuits, clementines and hot drinks were enjoyed by all, members of the Representative Council, community organizations and some of the community’s Rabbanim engaged with the visitors. The purpose of this event was to share the celebration of  Chanukah with the wider community and to showcase our community. Both these objectives were achieved and it is intended that this will become an annual event.  Thanks were extended to the Steve Langford, head of King David School with Carol Cooper and the Choir for participating, to Canon Dr Andrew Smith for his encouragement to put on this event and to Cllr T Chatfield and his office for their assistance in enabling the event to happen.

Adoption of the IHRA working definition of anti-Semitism

In December 2016, the Government formally adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance working definition of anti-Semitism; the first European Union country to do so.
The definition, although legally non-binding, is an important tool for public bodies to understand how anti-Semitism manifests itself in the 21st century, as it gives examples of the kind of behaviours which depending on the circumstances could constitute anti-Semitism.

Read moreAdoption of the IHRA working definition of anti-Semitism

Roger Hooker Memorial Lecture held on February 27th 2018

Roger Hooker Memorial Lecture  Tuesday February 27th, 7.45 pm at Woodbrooke Quaker Study Centre. A joint annual event with the Council for Christians and Jews (Birmingham branch)

‘Religion and Belief in Public Life: a Hindu Perspective’: Shaunaka Rsi Das, Director of the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies

On a very cold and snowy evening it was good to have a substantial turnout from the Hindu community, and several staunch members of other faiths as well.

The Revd Dr Roger Hooker was an Anglican Christian missionary in India from 1965 – 78. He spent 6 of those years in Varanasi the sacred Hindu city learning Sanskrit and engaging with Hindus. He wrote his doctoral thesis on the Hindu novel. On his return to Britain he lived in Birmingham and later in Smethwick and became the Bishop of Birmingham’s adviser on interfaith relations. He was much in demand as a speaker but was especially well known for his skills in befriending people of all faiths. He co-authored a book with Christopher Lamb called ‘Love the Stranger’ in which he spoke of ‘loitering with intent’ – the intent to befriend whoever passed by. In his final years he undertook a particular study of Judaism and was a member of the Council of Christians and Jews. He died early, in 1999, and this lecture was set up in his memory soon after.

GUEST SPEAKER: Shaunaka Rsi Das has been Director of the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies since it opened in 1997. Shaunaka was born in the Republic of Ireland and was ordained as a Hindu priest in the Vaishnava tradition in 1982. He is the Hindu Chaplain to Oxford University, a lecturer and broadcaster. In 2013 he became a member of the Commission on Religion and Belief in Public Life.

Shaunaka spoke about the different approach to public life among the Dharmic faiths and Hinduism in particular, compared with the Abrahamic faiths, and the tendency for public bodies to assume the Abrahamic perspective. He referred to his personal history, having come from a Roman Catholic background in Ireland, but finding Hinduism‘s emphasis on lived experience rather than belief in certain doctrines, deeply liberating.  However, this difference of emphasis can make for difficulties when it comes to policy making for public life – where it is important to involve people of all faiths equally but not easy when the underlying philosophies are so different. Roger Hooker made a uniquely valuable contribution to bridging the gap between Christianity and Hinduism. Hinduism’s inclusivity can offer much to public life but there are many different views within the Hindu ‘community’.

By Ruth Tetlow – 6th April 2018

Senior Adviser and Trustee , Birmingham Council of Faiths

Footsteps Report September 2017

Report from Footsteps: Faiths for a Low Carbon Future

Footsteps has continued to benefit from being a project of BCF. It was founded in autumn 2015 around the time of the Paris conference on Climate change and is based on the interfaith Lambeth declaration. Footsteps has active Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Arya Samaj and Pagan members on the Planning Group, and we hope to have Sikhs and Buddhists engaged as well in future, as people of all faiths share a common concern for the future of our planet.

The main annual event is ‘Tread Lightly on this Earth’ held annually in National Interfaith Week. Last year it was held at the Birmingham Central Mosque and was attended by about 80 people of all faiths. There were a range of speakers, stalls and round table discussions. There will be a similar event this year on Sunday November 19th at the Birmingham Progressive Synagogue and we hope to see you there – leaflets are available here. We also supported the inspiring Eco Church Weekend held at Streetly Methodist Church, and, later, the Environmental Workshop held by the Bahu Trust for Muslim Imams. Our summer programme for young people, Small Footsteps, took place at Fircroft College in Selly Oak this year and has built up a strong team of volunteers. About 20 children aged 11 – 14 attended for the 5 days 31st  July – 4th August, and enjoyed a range of well presented sessions, with a lot of hands on experiences. A video of the week is available.

Other events during the year included a tree planting day for young people in Balsall Heath Park and a forum at the University of Birmingham on ‘Faith, Ethics and Climate Change’, which included a buffet supper. We were invited to make a presentation for the Moseley Interfaith Forum in July and in the following discussion were encouraged to provide more written and website resources for churches and other places of worship.  In August a number of our members were joined by newcomers for the Foraging Walk along the River Cole, led by our Pagan member Rob Stacey. It was so fascinating that we hope to have another one next year.

In March the planning group spent a half day considering the future direction for Footsteps and we also ran two evenings of presentation skills training.

We are setting up a new Footsteps Supporters Group for individuals, groups, worshipping communities and others that share the Footsteps vision. Regular donations from supporters will help fund future events, our website and materials to support faith groups in taking action.  Information on how to join the Footsteps Supporters Group will be available on our website and leaflets are available here and from members of the planning group.


Footsteps Event Report: follow up for the ‘Small Footsteps 2016’

Thank you to all those who were able attend on Saturday 18th March when we planted 110 Wild Harvest Tree Saplings in the Balsall Heath area of Birmingham (Pickwick Park – St Pauls Road and Balsall Heath Park – Longmore Street) in order make our playing areas more friendly as well as to promote food growth on trees. This activity was followed by a short litter pick of both areas.

Feedback from parents and children has been very positive and we have been asked to organise small environmental events on a regular basis (we will of course discuss this amongst ourselves and see what is possible).

Although it was a Footsteps led event, it was a collaboration with the Woodlands Trust and the Balsall Heath Forum, we have also had some wonderful and encouraging messages on the Footsteps twitter page.

A big thank you to Emad for arranging all the logistics and to Shabana and Misbah for preparing all the handmade sandwiches the night before. I would also like to communicate my appreciation to all the Footsteps committee members who either emailed their support or attended on the morning.


Faith in Birmingham Gallery

When the new Faith in Birmingham Gallery was opened at the Museum & Art Gallery last year, its focus was on six faiths: Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism and Sikhism. But many more are practised in the city and we were told that changes would be made on a regular basis in the side cases dealing with the practical aspects of religious life. Obviously, large items owned by the Museum, such as the Sultanganj Buddha, the painting “Prayers in the Desert” and the stained glass window from the Black Country, would remain a constant; but even here loans from other museums might make a difference. So, for example, a beautiful 13th century stone statue of Ganesh on tour from the British Museum was ceremonially installed by the city’s Hindu community in September last year, in place of the Museum’s own example, and was on show for three months. Two successive ancient manuscripts of the Qur’an were likewise on display.

Meanwhile consultations with other communities were taking place behind the scenes, some involving members of BCF’s committee. The four faiths involved were Bahai, Jains, Mandaeans and Rastafarians. Having decided on appropriate items and collected them from households in the city, the changeover in the cases was made last month and celebrated at a ceremony in the Gallery on 18 March. Many of them centre on personal practice and reading in the home, but the statue of the Mahavir, founder of Jainism, stands out in a lighted case all its own. This replaces, for the moment anyway, the statue from the British Museum once on display in the former Buddha Gallery.

The new Gallery’s aim is to remind visitors that, beside their artistic value, religious artefacts are a central part of the spiritual life of Birmingham’s diverse communities. BCF has welcomed the opportunity to be involved in its development. And not the least benefit has been the opportunity to make new contacts and explore the possibilities of extending the coverage of our series of faith brochures still further!