Stories and samosa in the Gurdwara.
A few weeks ago I found myself in one of the most beautiful locations in Southall, the Sri Guru Singh Sabha Gurdwara, one of the largest Gurdwaras outside of India. The Gurdwara was kind enough to host a Near Neighbours meeting with project leaders in West London, and the new Communities Minister, Lord Bourne, and Jillian Kay, the Director of Local Government Policy from the DCLG.
I was the ‘paparazzi’ on this big table, taking pictures to capture the unique and inspiring projects stories that were being shared. The projects mentioned were really fascinating and there was a nice variety of innovative ideas:
There was a Southall Women’s Pastoral Care Project which trained women from different faith institutions to support vulnerable women through a counselling skills course delivered by a psychotherapy institute. The project involved women from different faiths to train together which fostered and built relationships through learning together and being able to support each other. Faith leaders at Central Jamia Mosque and St. John’s Church also commended the project as being very valuable and needed in the local community.
In terms of an eco-friendly project there was ‘Connecting faith and the environment’, which brought people from various faith and cultural backgrounds together on environmental activities. There was an eco-canal boat trip, which included a short workshop from different faith leaders (Christian, Muslim and Sikh) to discuss their faith perspective on the natural environment. There was also a harvest celebration which entailed picking apples, plums, strawberries, and veg at wolf fields together for jam and juice making!
For youth projects, there was a Youth football project where there were events for young people based around faith, football and food. The project hosted an event once a term with activities including 2V2 football and team building games, followed by a lovely meal and conversation. Through the project many strong friendships were built with people from different faiths, from Christian, Hindu, Muslim and Sikh faith backgrounds.
Steve Derby, the director of Inter-faith Matters, started a project which supported to ensure sustainability of four clergy and community leader interfaith forums. Each forum facilitated first encounters and civil engagement through interfaith dialogue and activity. Activity included civic engagement (working in partnership with local authorities and local civil society groups to improve neighbourhoods), public meetings, schools (educating about faith communities and role within society) and social action programmes (ensuring inter-religious relations for a wider general public).
Kiran, a Nehemiah worker, led Local Faiths Tours which was tour guide training to places of worship in Southall in hosting people of other faiths to their institution. Nehemiah community workers and faith leaders shared their knowledge and the project brought Sikh, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist and Hindu participants together. Participants were also given a long-lasting resource by means of a booklet detailing information about the beliefs and practices practised in Southall and details of the buildings and the main relations between them promoting diversity and harmony.
Communities Minister Lord Bourne saw the impact Near Neighbours makes through funding projects like these. He said:
“There are massive challenges in communities around Britain but this work is a shining example of what can be achieved when people of different faiths come together.
“I’m privileged to listen to people in Southall and want to learn from them so we can apply this in other areas across the country.”
Our group was then given a tour around the Gurdwara. The architecture was spectacular, and the place was very welcoming. If you’re ever in Southall – you have to visit the Sri Guru Singh Sabha Gurdwara. You will not be left disappointed.