A Successful Leap of Faith

Hindu HIFF launch051008 017People from many faith groups in Hastings and Bexhill packed St Mary in the Castle last Sunday, braving the foul weather to take ‘A Leap of Faith’ – affirming that we can all live together in mutual respect and friendship. It turned into a joyful expression of many faiths in music and dance, and a feeling that something quite special had happened.

The Mayor of Hastings, Cllr Maureen Charlesworth, and MP Michael Foster both gave their enthusiastic backing to the event, which was organized by the Hastings & District Interfaith Forum. After an introduction by Steve Manwaring, Habibah Anwar-Bhatti, also of Hastings Voluntary Action, shared how her brainchild had been formed over the last two years with the purpose of allowing the voice of faith groups large and small to be heard by local government and agencies.

The auditorium at St Mary in the Castle overflowed with 150 guests, who also heard talks on tolerance and respect for religious diversity from Imam Sajid, Secretary of the World Congress of Faiths, and Mary-Jane Burkett, Interfaith Adviser for the Diocese of Chichester.


Audience HIFF launch051008 004The Pestalozzi students performed a very striking mime on the theme that our humanity is above religious differences. Other highlights of the entertainment were local star Claire Hamill singing a beautiful version of ‘Jerusalem’ and the wonderful Gizmo kids singing ‘songs of peace and unity’, including a stunning version of ‘Ave Maria’ sung by 12-year-old Jasmine Allan.
There was a Buddhist choir, an exquisite Hindu temple dancer, chants from the Quran and hymns from the Jewish and Baha’i communities.

Mayor HIFF launchFinally, Forum Chairman Tim Miller outlined the Forum’s plans for the future before proceedings were brought to a close with an interfaith prayer composed by Deputy Mayor Peter Armstrong.

Imam Sajid HIFF launchAs the guests spilled out onto the wet and windswept seafront, many were still smiling, taking away a very positive hope for the future of Hastings.

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