We might have lost the bid for 2017 City of Culture, but we can’t deny that Leicester contains a vast variety of cultures, traditions and beliefs, all within the same city limits and beyond. Thus, the Leicester Council of Faiths – in association with St Philip’s Centre, the Church Urban Fund’s Near Neighbours programme and the Semaine de Rencontres Islamo-Chrétiennes – has taken advantage of this week of ups and downs and organised the fifth edition of the Inter Faith Week in Leicester and Leicestershire.
This week, the Highcross Shopping Centre near The Shires in Leicester City Centre is hosting an exhibition dedicated to the eight member communities of the Leicester Council of Faiths: Hindus, Sikhs, Muslims, Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Bahá’ís and Jains. Each religion has one side of a banner sharing its characteristic symbol and a phrase from one of their Holy Books to represent their views on community, union and love. Most of them share the same message, one that rivals and fanatics sometimes forget: we are all the same and we should love and respect each other.
The show includes a table with leaflets on each religion, copies of A Festival Year 2014 Calendar and information on more interfaith meetings in Leicestershire. Two volunteers, Kash Bhayani from Academy of Life and Chancellor Inderjit Singh Gugnani from Knighton Ward, were minding the table and engaging in conversation with visitors from all and none faiths. Their presence made the experience even richer. They were open and respectful, and they really seemed to care about you. I don’t belong to any system of belief, but we didn’t try to drag each other into our personal systems of belief or no belief. Just like nobody should.
While the core of the event itself started on Sunday 17 November and will end this Sunday 23 November, many activities have also been happening from as early as the 13th of November and will extend until next Wednesday the 26th. You can find a full programme at the Highcross Centre exhibition.