Blog from Aled Vernon-Rees, IFN Intern

An Inter Faith Week blog by Aled Vernon-Rees, IFN intern during Inter Faith Week 2022

In my role as an intern at the Inter Faith Network for the UK, I had the opportunity to contribute to Inter Faith Week 2022 by undertaking various tasks that helped to promote participation and engagement from different organisations and communities. From reaching out to local authorities to researching and adding unregistered activities to the website, to creating social media posts to raise awareness about the Week, my experience as an intern allowed me to play an active role in supporting the Week’s promotion of inter faith understanding.  

During the Week I had the opportunity to attend a range of different activities which covered themes such as the environment, mental health and peace. It was a great opportunity to be able to encounter and be involved in inter faith activities.   


I started the Week by attending the launch event for Scottish Interfaith Week. Scottish Interfaith Week was the inspiration for the Inter Faith Network for the UK’s Inter Faith Week initiative. It was great to be able to attend their vibrant launch event at the Scottish Storytelling Centre in Edinburgh, on the theme for their Week: ‘Storytelling’ and to meet many of the story tellers. 

The event began with an opportunity to view the Faces of Faith photography and storytelling exhibition. It was inspiring to hear the stories from people of a variety of different faith and beliefs backgrounds.  

We then sat down to listen to a variety of talks and performances which included readings from Interfaith Scotland’s recently published poetry book and musical interludes of traditional Scottish music.   


On Tuesday, The Inter Faith Network for the UK held an Inter Faith Week information ‘drop’ for MPs and peers at Portcullis House in the Houses of Parliament. This sponsored by Holly Lynch, MP for Halifax with opening words from the Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Faith and Society, Sir Stephen Timms.  

I had the opportunity to be involved in the planning and organising of the event and on the day, I assisted on set up. It was a privilege to be involved in the event and it was positive to see a number of MPs engaging with the IFN’s staff and trustees, hearing about the positive inter faith work which happens up and down the country.  


On Wednesday I was honoured to have the opportunity to attend the annual Ahimsa Day celebration at Portcullis House, where the Ahimsa award was presented to author Kumarpal Bhai Desai by Baroness Scott of Bybrook OBE, Minister for Faith and Communities. The Ahimsa Day celebration is organised by the Institute of Jainology and sponsored by the Jain All-Party Parliamentary Group. It seeks to “underline the universality of Jainism and publicly identify it with the concept of non-violence”.  

I listened to talks from members of the Jain APPG, Office for National Statistics and others. Many of the topics discussed related to the aims of Inter Faith Week, such as religious literacy. For example, presenters from the University of Birmingham’s Department of Theology and Religion spoke about the launch of its new Jain Studies programme. This sparked a discussion on the importance of religious education in increasing awareness of faith communities in the UK.  


On Thursday I went to the University of Southampton to attend a couple of activities from their week-long programme led by The Parkes Institute. In afternoon I attended a talk on the topic of ‘Faith and Mental Health’, led by the Muslim Faith Advisor for the University. We also heard from the University of Southampton Wellbeing Team. It was great to hear wide and in-depth discussion about the topic of faith and mental health and the work of the University in this area. 

In the evening I attended an inter faith Quaker reflection at the University of Southampton's Faith and Reflection Centre, run by the university’s Quaker faith advisors. After a time of silence, which is central to Quaker worship, we spoke in turn about what peace means to us. When we shared food and discussed the topic of peace and inter faith.  


On Friday I went to Middlesex University in Hendon to see the Eco Show and Tell – Sustainability Fair, an event held in partnership with Middlesex University Inter Faith Network and Barnet Multifaith Forum.  

Middlesex University Eco Show and Tell Sustainability Fair

As I walked around the fair I learned about local sustainable initiatives and inter faith networks which are carrying out such activities as educating young people about nature; producing locally sourced honey;  tending to apple orchards; improving recycling and waste collection; and encouraging exercise. I had the chance for a number of interesting conversations about the different ways that faith and sustainability intersect. 


On Saturday morning I joined ab inter faith walk in the London Borough of Croydon organised by Faiths Together in Croydon. We began by visiting a new Hindu Temple in Lohana Community Complex where one of its members told us about the establishment of the Temple and the meaning behind the statues in the shrine. 

We then walked to Croydon Minster, where we were given a short talk about the history of the building and then the opportunity to have a look around the cathedral and ask questions. Before we left we came together and listened to a short prayer. 

Our next stop was Old Town Mosque, we heard a talk about the history of the building and the congregation’s plans for the future. A representative from the Dialogue Society talked about the story of Noah’s Pudding -  which is thought to be the oldest dessert in the world and from the unexpected but successful combination of ingredients in which, the Society draws a lesson about the enrichment that diversity brings. I was a bit apprehensive about a dessert with chickpeas in I was pleasantly surprised!  You can read about the pudding at: We were then invited to watch members of Mosque partake in their prayers.  

The walk finished at Siri Guru Singh Sabha Gurdwara. We were invited to the upstairs of the building where a service was being held for the celebration of Guru Nanak’s birthday. We then were then welcomed to come and join in  langar, which is the free food (and the kitchen from which it comes) which the Sikh community provide to all wishing to come and eat. This tradition of providing free meals goes back to Guru Nanak himself. 

At the end of the dinner there were speeches from The Elected Mayor of Croydon, the local MP and from Strengthening Faith Institutions. 


Hertsmere Forum of Faiths - Tree planting

I finished the Week by joining Hertsmere Forum of Faiths’ Inter Faith Week and Mitzah Day tree planting at the Well End Scout Centre in Borehamwood. We planted 30 tree saplings across the site for The Queen’s Green Canopy initiative.   

Closing Reflection 

The Week gave me a unique opportunity to learn and connect with  many people from different faith backgrounds. It was inspiring to see people coming together to share their experiences, learn from one another, and celebrate their differences.  

Throughout the Week, I took part in events that helped to promote inter faith dialogue and understanding. The range of these and the diverse communities involved made the Week a fascinating and enriching experience. It was one through which I gained a deeper understanding of the diverse religious traditions in our society and the value of inter faith cooperation.  

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