Exploring World Faiths
We are particularly blessed here in Birmingham because over 40% of the population are from an ethnic minority background 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.
Upcoming Webinars, October 2023- January 2024 *Open to All*
I am pleased that so many members are continuing to enjoy our monthly webinars, so please book on u3a Online Events page
You will be sent a Zoom link in the week before the webinar takes place. These webinars are open to all members of the u3a.
Mon 16th Oct
Faith and Slavery
World Elimination of Slavery Day occurs in October each year, so what do different Faiths have to say about historic and modern day slavery?
This will include the video of my visit to Cape Coast Castle in Ghana, which was used as a slave holding facility before transporting across the Atlantic to the Americas
Mon 13th Nov
National Interfaith Week occurs in November each year. What is Interfaith, In what ways do different faiths work together, What is the importance of National Interfaith Week
We will discuss the Parliament of World Religions, and the contributions of different faiths to Interfaith Week.
Mon 11th Dec
Although Christmas is regarded as a Christian Festival celebrating the birth of Jesus, We will explore how other faiths celebrate Christmas.
Mon 8th Jan
World Religion Day
Baha’is celebrate the common themes across various religions on World Religion Day on Jan 15th. We will explore some of these common themes.
You can register for all events via the u3a Online Events page
Queries to Dr Peter Rookes at
Previous Presentations (2022-3)
Buddha Day occurs in May, and meditation is part of the way in which Buddhists practise their faith
We heard from... Yann Lovelock, Theravadin Buddhist, Senior Advisor, Birmingham Council of Faiths, Brigitte Van Baren - Zen Buddhist, Chair Living Peace Projects Foundation, Adam Green - (Christian) Fellowship of Meditation will talk about Contemplative Meditation
Love is a common theme through many faiths
We heard perspectives on Love from a Christian and a Baha’i presenter, Patricia Earle, Women’s Federation for World Peace and David Earle, Universal Peace Federation.
In January each year, we remember the Holocaust, during which 6 million Jews from around Europe were murdered as an extreme act of antisemitism and genocide. We will hear from someone who experienced the death camps, and discuss how genocide occurs.
We heard from Alex Maws, Head of Education and Heritage at The Association of Jewish Refugees, Ruth Jacobs, Jewish Community Leader, and Tracy Moses, daughter of a Holocaust Survivor
All Souls Day has become better known and popularised as Halloween. The Day of the Dead is a major event in many Latin American countries, particularly Mexico. In this webinar we will have contributions from Christian, Muslim, and other faiths
What do we mean by Light, and why is this so important to some of the faiths originating in the Indian Subcontinent? Arvinder Jain of the Jain faith spoke about the significance of Diwali in his faith, and Anjana Shelat, a Hindu explored the significance in her faith. Ajit Singh explored the importance of Bandi Chorr to people of the Sikh faith.
Further information from Ajit:
- A guide to the Gurudwara (produced in conjunction with the Arts Society) http://birmingham-faith-visits.theartssociety.org/sikh
- An overview of our organisation Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha (GNNSJ) and the work it does (coming soon!)
- A link to a short film taking you on a tour of the Gurudwara: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R-_fI9i1XiI&t=448s
- A link to a short very beautiful film – ‘Nishkam - Life, Love and Service: A Sikh perspective’: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cKo2wyJAZ_k&t=220s
The tension in Israel/Palestine has rumbled on since the Balfour Declaration in 1917, with continued spates of armed conflict. Claire Bowman, Interchurch and Interfaith Coordinator, Central England Quakers will explore the contribution of Judaism, Islam and Christianity to the conflict, and to peace initiatives.
What was the cause of ‘The Troubles’ in Northern Ireland. To what extent was the conflict about theological differences about how Catholics and Protestants worshipped God. What part did church leaders play in bringing about the Good Friday Agreement. Dr Mark Dick, a GP in Northern Ireland, and author of the book ‘Towards Oikos’, will explore these issues with us.
There are a number of faith based organisations promoting World Peace, and why is it so elusive. Patricia and David Earle will discuss the promotion of World Peace by the Universal Peace Federation and the Women’s Federation for World Peace.
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?’ 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.
The annual National Interfaith Week, takes place every year in November, this year the week is 12th -19th November 2023. 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
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.