On 3 March Herts Interfaith Forum and Hertfordshire County Council jointly hosted an Interfaith conference entitled Stronger Together, to discuss how different communities including faith communities might work together to face challenges in Hertfordshire. This event was the culmination of a year of hard work in particular by Reynold Rosenberg, Chair of Herts Interfaith Forum and Charulata Joshi of the Equalities team at Hertfordshire County Council and their planning committee, and I was proud to have been able to support them.
The Conference was held in the beautiful Focolare Centre for Unity in Welwyn Garden City where there was plenty of space for reception, lunch, the conference and rooms for the workshops.
The Conference was fortunate and privileged to have been supported by distinguished speakers and panel chairs, who represented a number of different faiths. The Lord-Lieutenant started the day with an introduction about diversity in our county, and there followed presentations by the Rt Revd Richard Atkinson OBE Bishop of Bedford, Rabbi Alan Garber of the Shenley United Jewish Community and Imam Shaykh Ibrhaim Mogra, visiting Imam to the University of Leicester and De Montfort University. The panel session that followed was expertly chaired by Jahangir Sarosh OBE of Religions for Peace and challenging questions, including on conversion and mixed faith marriages, were discussed.
Wendy Lidgate of the Whisper Interfaith School project spoke about how interfaith cooperation can assist learning in schools and after lunch I spoke on how interfaith dialogue enables better community cohesion.
Worshops during the afternoon tackled the subjects of
The environment and sustainable development in Hertfordshire
Challenging prejudice and extremism
Health, Wellbeing and Faith
Exploring life opportunities for all
We were fortunate to have expert workshop leads including the Environmental Sustainability Coordinator from Herts Sustainable Forum, the Inspector from Herts Constabulary with responsibility for hate crime and the Director of Public Health from Hertfordshire County Council.
Final afternoon sessions were from Helen Gray, Director of Hertfordshire Community Foundation on raising awareness of resources and a Hertfordshire County Council perspective on Interfaith and inclusion.
The event was very well attended and without doubt it was a huge success and well received. This will be so important going forwards in keeping interfaith in Hertfordshire engaged, visible, relevant and valuable in building stronger communities.
The information pack for the day can be seen here.