Exploring World Faiths
We are particularly blessed here in Birmingham because over 40% of the population belong to BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) communities resulting in a rich variety of faiths. With my late wife, Jeanie, I have been coordinating our local u3a World Faiths group since 2012, first Birmingham Harborne and later Birmingham Kings Norton. Sessions have included discussions and visits to a range of faith buildings, particularly faith schools and community centres. Since the Covid Pandemic many of the sessions have taken place on Zoom.
Outside of the u3a, I am immersed in interfaith activities through the Birmingham Council of Faiths, of which I am 3rd Sector Liaison Officer and Secretary. I also coordinate our Faiths Promoting Health and Wellbeing Forum and am Faith Advisor to West Midlands Police and Birmingham County Scouts. Jeanie and I also worked with people of different faiths in other countries, particularly Papua New Guinea, Maldives, India, Malawi, Kenya and Uganda.
Please let me know if you have a local World Faiths' group and the activities you pursue. Also contact us if you need any advice on operating World Faiths' groups.
The annual National Interfaith Week, takes place every year in November, this year the week is 13th-20th November 2022. The aims of Interfaith Week are to strengthen interfaith relations at all levels; increase awareness of the different and distinct faith communities in the UK, in particular celebrating and building on the contribution which their members make to their neighbourhoods and to wider society; and to increase understanding between people of religious and non-religious beliefs.
Quotation from Pope Francis on Fasting-
Fast from hurting words and say kind words
Fast from sadness and be filled with gratitude
Fast from anger and be filled with patience
Fast from pessimism and be filled with hope
Fast from worries and trust in God
Fast from complaints and contemplate simplicity
Fast from pressures and be prayerful
Fast from bitterness and fill your hearts with joy
Fast from selfishness and be compassionate to others
Fast from grudges and be reconciled
Fast from words and be silent so you can listen
- Pope Francis
Upcoming Webinars 2022 *Open to All*
Exploring World Faiths – National Zoom Events, September - December 2022
Thank you everyone for participating in our Exploring World Faiths National Webinars.
Powerpoints and recordings of this, and previous, webinars can be accessed on the Exploring World Faiths page on the u3a national website.
Here are details of the next 4 webinars on Zoom as follows. Please register on Eventbrite through the Exploring World Faiths Subject Page on the u3a national website u3a Online Events page
Queries to Dr Peter Rookes, National Subject Advisor, Exploring World Faiths, pjrookes@gmail,com.
Mon 5th Sept – 10.0 am
Holy Wars or Holy Peace – To coincide with the International Day of Peace on 21st September, we will explore the contribution of Faiths to conflict and to peace.
The contribution of Islam and Judaism to Peace in Israel/Palestine - Claire Bowman, Interchurch and Interfaith Coordinator, Central England Quakers
The promotion of World Peace by the Universal Peace Federation and the Women’s Federation for World Peace – Patricia and David Earle
Interfaith Solidarity in Birmingham following the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Building in New York – Representatives of Birmingham Faith Leaders
Mon 24th Oct – 10.0 am
Divali – Festival of Light – Contributors from the Jain, Hindu and Sikh faiths
Mon 14th Nov – 10.0 am
All Souls – Day of the Dead – Contributions from Christian and Muslim faiths
Mon 12th Dec – 10.0 am
Reflections, Ideas and Experiences of Setting Up and Running Local Exploring World Faiths Groups
Please register to attend on the Exploring World Faiths subject page on the u3a website. Queries to Dr Peter Rookes at
You can register for all events via the u3a Online Events page
Previous presentations (2022)
Pilgrimages July 18th Presentation
Many people of different faiths go on pilgrimages - we heard about 3 examples - what motivates people to go on pilgrimage, what preparation they need to make, how was it organised, what do 'pilgrims' feel while they are there, and when they return home. What are the similarities and differences between these 3 examples -
- Shahana Khan, Muslim, will tell us about her pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia.
- Mauricio Silva, Christian, will share his experience of walking to Santiago de Compostela in Spain
- Munpreet Kaur, Sikh, will tell us about her pilgrimage to the Golden Temple in Amritsar, India
National Buddha Day May 16th presentation
Peter Brookes hosted this special talk for national Buddha Day with speakers Richard Ollier & Lama Choesang.
Richard Ollier has been a practising Buddhist for about thirty-five years, at first in the Theravada tradition, and more recently as an ordained priest in the Amida Order of Pureland Buddhists (in a Japanese tradition). He is a Learning Mentor on an online training course for Buddhist chaplains.
Lama Choesang is a senior Buddhist nun ordained by His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet (HHDL). Further ordination in 2001 as a Bikshuni (Gelongma in Tibetan) as a senior nun with some 364 vows.
‘Do All Religions Lead to the Same God?’ Wed 20th April presentation
Dr Peter Rookes, National u3a Subject Advisor, Exploring World Faiths, introduced the topic from a mainly, but not exclusively, Abrahamic perspective.
Stephen Vickers, Religious Education Task Force of the Office of Public Affairs, National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of the UK will present from A Baha'i view -Do all religions lead to the same God?
Vandna Dey, who is a teacher at the College of Vedic Studies and Head of Education and Pluralism at the West Midlands Hindu Forum will approach the topic from A Hindu perspective presentation.
Previous presentations (2021)
Mon 16 May (Buddha Day) – 10 am
Buddhism, Buddha and the Dalai Lama
Richard Ollier is a retired secondary school teacher, who has been a practising Buddhist for about thirty five years, at first in the Theravada tradition, and more recently as an ordained priest in the Amida Order of Pureland Buddhists (in a Japanese tradition). I am a Learning Mentor on an online training course for Buddhist chaplains.
Lama Choesan is a Buddhist Nun based in Hereford, and is one of only 2 Tibetan Nuns in the UK.
You may like to watch on iplayer – BBC4, 23 Feb 2022 - Mission Joy – With Archbishop Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama - BBC
Mon 20 June - 10 am
General Chat Session for Local Coordinators of u3a Exploring World Faiths groups and others thinking of doing so.
Mon 18 July - 10 am
Pilgrimage – Presenters to be advised
Pilgrimages to important religious sites for spiritual renewal are a feature of many faiths. We are all familiar with the Muslim pilgrimage to Hajj; Christian pilgrimages to Canterbury, Lindisfarne and Santiago de Compestella; Christians, Jews and Muslims go on pilgrimage to Jerusalem; Sikhs to theGolden Temple at Amritsar; and Hindus go to the Ganges at Varanassi.
Mon 5 Sept – 10 am
Holy Wars or Holy Peace – Presenters to be advised.
To coincide with the International Day of Peace on 21st September, we will explore the contribution of Faiths to conflict and to peace.
Exploring world faiths - West Midlands subject week (April 2021)
The West Mildands had their first Regional Subject Week, Exploring World Faiths, which has been a roaring success. Over 270 members joined the first session on Christianity, and the audience averaged over 200 for each of the next four days. Subjects included Islam and Christian Science, Hinduism and Buddhism, Baha’I and Sikh, and Judaism and Scientology. Dr Peter Rookes, National Subject Adviser for Exploring World Faiths, said he was delighted with the response. “This week has certainly put World Faiths on the u3a map. We looked at each faith objectively and from a historical viewpoint, without any prothletising, and members asked some really interesting and searching questions. Lots of members enquired about starting an interest group in their own u3a and we are looking at ways of supporting them.”
Please find some of the YouTube links from the week are below, the Introduction to Exploring World faiths (slides) led by Peter Rookes.
Additional discussions for you to follow.
- EXPLORING WORLD FAITHS : Introduction and Christianity - YouTube
- EWF HINDUISM & BUDDHISM recording - YouTube
- VIDEO Bahai & Sikh - YouTube
- VIDEO 5 Judaism & Scientology - YouTube
- EWF ISLAM & CHRISTIAN SCIENCE - YouTube
- The Fasts of Faith - Lent, Ramadan, Baha'i Fast and Fast of Esther
You may also be interested in reading my article in the April 2021 issue of TAM (June)- there is a fuller version in the online edition of Sources.
Latest webinar with The Arts Society
At a recent webinar Liz Dancey, from Harborne and Edgbaston u3a, presented resources she has created for the 6 major world faiths, supported by the Arts Society. These include videos, guides and worksheets, which are freely available to Exploring World Faiths groups through this LINK. Queries to Dr Peter Rookes, National Subject Advisor, Exploring World Faiths, pjrookes@gmail,com.