Text size: A A A

Please Click Here
to Return to
Love and Light

Region 1 - “All Is One”.... Interfaith Walk

The sun shone brightly on Sunday 1st April, when the first Region 1 Interfaith Walk commenced at the Sai Mandir, Merton Sai Centre. Devotees from across the region congregated and, before the walk began, Interfaith prayers and devotional songs were sung in the Mandir. The Interfaith Walk encompassed a Jewish Synagogue, Buddhist Temple and Christian Church respectively.

Inside the Wimbledon & District Synagogue, which is part of the Reform movement of Judaism, we were introduced to the Synagogue and the Jewish way of life by Diane Barnett, who welcomed us so warmly and helped to convey the true essence of Judaism. Following a brief tour of the building complex, she showed us the holiest place in the Synagogue - the Ark. This is the most important feature of the building. We learnt that external decorations matter little, for what is inside is the most important - the Torah scrolls, the word of God made manifest. The Torah comprises the first five books of the Hebrew Bible, more commonly known as the Old Testament. Torah is a composite term meaning ‘teaching’. The rituals and ceremonies that those of the Jewish faith must adhere to are seen as Torah – a way of life. From food regulations to the proper way to put on the robes for a bar mitzvah, Torah truly is the guide for how a Jewish person should live their life, which is why it is so revered. In the short time that we were there, Diane managed to convey the deep devotion and spirituality and sense of family and community that is so much a part of the Jewish Faith, and we left with a much deeper understanding and respect for one of the world’s oldest religions.

We then walked, carrying banners and placards with Swami’s quotations on interfaith, to the Bhuddapadipa Thai Temple nearby. A very large traditional red and white building, set amidst a picturesque setting of lakes and gardens, it truly is an island of peace in the hustle and bustle that is London. Inside the Temple, Mrs. Lynne showed us beautiful and intricate wall paintings that describe the life of Buddha. Covering every single wall surface, the paintings depicted various important events and teachings of His life. The painters, young at the time of working on this masterpiece, decided to also include modern elements, such as Superman and Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan and Colonel Gaddafi, as testaments to the continued blending of ancient traditions and modern practices in most of the major religions nowadays. After enjoying the beautiful grounds of the Temple and sharing hot chocolate and biscuits with other Thai devotees, we then made our way to St. Andrew’s Church for the final leg of our interfaith journey that day!

At the Church we were greeted by the very jovial Reverend Andrew Wakefield, who takes a very active role in Interfaith work in London. He is no stranger to the Sri Sathya Sai Service organisation, as he has been attending programmes at the Sai Mandir for many years and was also the guest speaker at the recent regional Christmas celebrations. He explained to us the significance of the Church, not only in the lives of Christians, but also in the lives of general community members of all faiths. Churches are very visible reminders of places of worship in the local community. In addition, centuries ago, Churches were the only places that had large enough indoor spaces to house large public gatherings, and this tradition has continued throughout their existence. We also learnt about how different denominations of Christianity approach art and iconography in church, with some advocating as much as possible and others preferring a very minimal approach. We also learnt more about the different festivals associated with Easter and enjoyed a delicious spread of tea and cakes and samosas made by the young people and ladies of the church.

As we walked back to the Sai Mandir, to finish the Interfaith Walk with arathi and prasadam, we reflected on what we had gained from the walk and visits. The major lesson we learnt from the whole day was that, although religions widely may differ in their belief in God and their approaches to worship, these should not be differences to be picked over and focussed upon. Rather, it is more important to embrace these differences and accept that every individual, whether a Hindu, Christian, Jew, Buddhist or atheist is ultimately on the path to becoming a better human being, no matter which route they take.