Multifaith Celebration 2008 – by David Maxwell

The theme of the 60th anniversary of Gandhi’s death was Peace Studies, venue: West London Synagogue, where one of our patrons, Martin Polden, worships. We could not have been made more welcome. Tina Elliot and Lily Karnak on the Synagogue staff gave us every assistance. The choir master provided Sim Shalom and Oseh Shalom, sung by the Synagogue choir, and the organist played the finale from Philip Glass’s opera Satyagraha, which had its first English performance at The Coliseum in 2007. Delicious refreshments were provided by the Synagogue and regular supporters attended, including Cecil and Isabel Evans, a founder and valued adviser.

David Maxwell, after Rabbi Josh Levy’s welcome, began the service with an informative talk about Gandhi and Peace Studies. Tagore, who would have liked the musical feast already mentioned, was represented by a recital from Sengeeta Datta in both English and Bengali of his poem, Mind without Fear. New this year was the introduction of dance into the service. Nicola Lennard, aged 12, gave us a moving and professionally performed dance about Krishna.

Five minute talks were given by Jackie Gryn, widow of the previous Rabbi, Hugo Gryn ; Rev. David Platt, Anglican priest from Oxford representing Christian CND; Salil Tripathi senior policy adviser for International Alert giving an Indian perspective including Hindu background; Shaheen Westcombe, from Bangladesh, whose Moslem father had accompanied Gandhi in trying to reconcile Hindus and Moslems in Noakali, talking about her life journey; and Jenny Nemko of Neve Shalom-Al Wahat-al who spoke about that model of inter-faith Moslem-Jewish co-operation based in Israel. Part of the
collection went to their work.

Rev. Nagase from the London Peace Pagoda, representing the Buddhist faith, led us into a communal candle-lighting ceremony. When everyone held a lit candle, Gandhi Meditation 61 from his Ashram Prayers (1930) was read.

Student Rabbi Debbie Young-Somers closed the service with the Kumar Mandir Prayer:

May God protect us,
May He support us,
May we make joint progress,
May our studies be fruitful;
May we never harbour ill will against another.
Om shanti, shanti, shanti.

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