Interfaith Question Time event at Swansea University
Archbishop John chaired an Interfaith Question Time at the Faraday Lecture Theatre Swansea University on November 14, 2018.
The event was the result of an idea that emerged between Fr Tim Ardouin and Sheikh Mohsen El-Beltagi (Imam at Swansea University)
Special thanks to Rev Mandy Williams (Lead Chaplain Swansea University) for the organisation and to Pam Evans (Peace Mala) for contacts and support
There will now be four Interfaith Forums in Swansea, at various venues, every year.
Interview with a Tibetan Monk
Ascension Day 2018, May 10, I went up a mountain that sometimes is said to be the highest point in mid Wales, Brynmawr. I was taken there by Pam Evans of Peace Mala to be introduced to a Buddhist monk. Here is the recording. I think Pam might have filmed us as we sat, Lama Rabsang in his meditation box, me cross-legged beside him.
Choje Lama Rabsang was born in a village in eastern Tibet in 1971 and became a monk at the age of 11, initially studying under his uncle and completing his monastic education at Palpung Sherabling Monastery in the northern Indian state of Himachal Pradesh, which practices according to the Karma Kagyu lineage of Tibetan Buddhism. There, he studied under the guidance of Tai Situ Rinpoche and Mingyur Rinpoche, and following a three-year retreat, was appointed discipline master, remaining at the monastery for a further four years.
Lama Rabsang came to live in UK in 2001, was appointed teacher at Palpung Changchub Dargyeling in 2004 when the Dharma centre first opened in the town of Llandrindod Wells. In 2007, the centre moved to Cardiff, before purchasing the chapel in Brynmawr in 2009. Lama Rabsang told me that he came to Wales after some time in England because he was told that Wales is just like Tibet. He smiled like Buddha when I asked him if he had found this to be true.
Interview with a Witch
Erin Kavanagh is a daughter of Ireland, born on the border of North Wales, on land since reclaimed by the sea.
Not sure whether to study in Oxford or Cambridge, she was guided instead to Lampeter University in the 1990s, “where the intellectual misfits have studied for the last 200 years or more”, and she hasn’t left yet. She is currently carrying out research into the land beneath the sea, where once animals and human beings moved on foot between Wales, Ireland and France, no doubt without consciousness of this country or that but instead in tune with land,sea and sky.
Science and art, archaeology and philosophy intertwine, bend and move in Erin’s working life and in her spirituality. For Erin, all these are one; she dwells in the material and the spiritual at the same time, though time and space themselves bend and move too. Witch comes from withy, to bend and move like the willow tree.
Erin works with and across lines and borders. A creature of liminality, her spiritual practice reflects this. From early childhood, Erin was aware of her own place and calling to the edges, to cross them and bend with them and to bring peace and gentleness to people. She has no desire or compulsion to convert anyone to or from anything. Liminality is by nature, for Erin, interfaith.
She respects all authentic spiritual and religious paths. Catholic nuns taught Erin early in her life that spirituality is light. Jesus, whom she calls by his Aramaic name, Jeshua, is at the centre of everything, “It’s all about him.” Listen to this interview. May it challenge you and bring you peace.
No Religion. Man of Faith. An Interview with Kev Child, Director of Student Services at Swansea University.
Kev has no particular faith affiliation of his own but he is deeply engaged in interfaith dialogue and activity. His own spirituality is fed through his work with student welfare and through his experience of nature, yoga and surfing.
“The sea is my church”, says Kev, and he will often spend 3 or 4 hours in contemplative communion with the waves, alone or with a few close friends.
The surfing community don’t discuss their work or their worries when they’re out among the waves but rather they give thanks to the universe for their being together and for their simply being alive and present to the wave and the moment.
“Mother Sea can take my life in a flash, “says Kev, “or she can give me the highest possible buzz.” In the sea, Kev comes to a realization of his own smallness of being and the contrasting vastness of space and time. This brings a certain sobriety to the ego and great peace to the soul (though Kev would be hesitant to delineate meaning to such term!)
Meanwhile, Kev has the deepest respect for the more traditional faith communities and the role of religion in people’s lives. He believes that interfaith dialogue holds the key to community integration and wholeness.
An interview with Brother Titus
Brother Titus is a Cistercian Trappist monk who lives on Caldey Island with the abbey community there. Since the 5th and 6th centuries, when Illtyd, Samson, Teilo, Dewi and the Celtic saints were there, there have been monks on Caldey Island (interruption by Henry VIII not withstanding). Brother Titus (born in Holland) moved there from the wild forests of Belgium in the early 2000s and he has been a monastic or 48 years. Before going to the monastery taking his holy vows, Titus was a world class racing driver. He loves speed but the true fire in him is for God. Here Brother Titus speaks about the contemplative life, the rhythms of sea and prayer. He teaches us about what lies beneath religion, where he finds we are are all One in the same Divine. He does not want to speak about God but rather “do” God. God for Titus is not an object. God is verb. In his poetry, Titus speaks of his experience in/of/with “She” but God is not male, or female or neuter. I told Titus that there was so far no overtly Christian representation on this interfaith web-page and I asked him if he would be interviewed. “But I have nothing to say”, replied Titus. “That’s exactly why am asking you”, I responded. Here’s Titus. Listen…
An interview with the founder of Peace Mala
This interview was recorded in the Peace Garden at Peace Mala HQ in Morriston, on a windy Autumn morning in October 2017. Pam Evans, leader and founder of Peace Mala, speaks from the heart about the struggle for peace and the calling to all humanity, whatever faith or non faith a person feels affiliated to, to walk the earth with respect for one another and with gentleness, compassion, kindness and love. Love is what the cosmos is about and all authentic faith meets and transmits this. Organized religion must remember this and teach it. The calling of faith communities is to bring people to experience what is Real. Peace Mala is a world-wide organization and it has been endorsed by Archbishops, the Dalai Lama, Pope Francis and many more.
An interview with Danda-krt dasa
This is an interview with Danda-krt dasa recorded in the Hare Krishna temple at Govinda’s Vegetarian and Vegan Cafe in Swansea. Interfaith dialogue began between us even before we started speaking.
Danda sat next to his harmonium upstairs as we settled to record. I had an Irish flute with me. Neither of us thought to ask, “What kind of music do you play?” or even, “What key shall we play in”. The music simply started and, prayerfully, we found the dialogue had begun.
The interview came naturally when the music gave way to words. Listen to the music and then listen to Danda speaking about God and about living, praying and doing in the flow of God consciousness. Such is the essence of Hare Krishna. You will find out about the movement’s beginnings, its founding in the West by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, and you can enter quite deeply, through Danda’s guidance, into what the faith is all about.
Interview with a Sufi
This interview with Nur Jamil took place at the Centre for Meditation, Healing and Retreat, which she runs at Dre Isaf, Ystrad Meirig in Ceredigion. Nur Jamil is of the Sufi order set up in Britain by the Indian Sufi master, Hazeat Inayat Khan (1882 – 1926) who came here after the First World War. Nur Jamil says her spiritual path intertwines Christian and Moslem roots but also that contemplative practice takes us deeper than religion. If you listen to her you will realise that Christ is central to the way in which Nur Jamil interprets the spiritual journey of the human adventure into purity (sufi), as we traval into and from divine consciousness and being. Listen too for some wonderful illustrations, not least concerning the poet Rumi, and beautiful Sufi prayers and blessings.
Exploring Islam’s message of peace
This is an interview at the Mosque at Swansea University with Dr Mahaboob Basha in late March 2017. I also met Sheik Mohsen El-Beltagi, the Imam in Swansea and was made very welcome. I shall gladly accept the offer to attend the Mosque sometimes for Friday Prayers. Islam is a “message of peace”, says Mahaboob, “a message of peace and love”. Sheik Mohsen and Mahaboob are both active in interfaith dialogue and believe that deep listening and sharing of faith will help societies in the world to integrate with compassion and respect for the other. “When integration happens, really integration, then there is community and I think there can then be no problems in society” – Mahaboob. For me, the reporting of Islam in the media these days is almost always uninformed, distorted and deeply destructive. I look forward to working with Mahaboob and Mohsen in the cause of peace now and through years to come.
A recording about Judaism
Here is an interview with Norma Glass MBE about the Jewish community in South Wales. It was recorded in a Gower cafe on the cliffs, in late January 2017.
Norma is the Welsh representative on the UK Board of Deputies of British Jews and is a founder director of Peacemala UK, a member of SACRE, a former president of Soroptomist International and a board member of the South Wales Police Independent Advisory Group.
Norma is chair of the Older Minority Ethnic Network run by Age Cymru and was awarded an MBE by the Queen for Services to Racial Understanding in Wales. In 2010, she was honoured by First Minister Carwyn Jones AM for her contributions to Race Relations.
Interview with a Druid
This interview with Druid Dr Ian Clegg was recorded under the ancient Yew tree in the llan of St Rhydian, in which Llanrhidian church is built. The interview took place in January 2017. A raven, a druidic symbol of peace, wisdom and divine communication, can be heard toward the end of the interview. Dr Clegg is a Druid and member of OBOD (Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids) and he is active throuout the UK and in Brittany. Of Scottish origin, Dr Clegg is currently based in Gower. Much of his life has been as an academic (history, philosophy, politics) and a political activist.
Interview with a Priestess
Olivia is a Priestess of the Fellowship of Isis and Glastonbury Goddess Temple. She is an active member of the Pagan community, and also engages in many interfaith activities throughout the year, seeing God as present in all faiths. From early adolescence, Olivia felt a calling to become religious clergy, and at the early age of 21, in 2013, Olivia dedicated as a Priestess of the Fellowship of Isis. In 2018 she went on to complete further Priestess training in Glastonbury and (re-)dedicated as a Priestess of the Goddess.
Olivia studied Egyptology at University and in the near future plans to continue this with PhD study in Egyptology or Anthropology. Ancient Egypt fascinated Olivia from a young age to such an extent that she decided to devote her life to studying and writing about it. The religion of the ancient Egyptians inspired Olivia, who found that it resonated with her own spiritual view of the world more closely than other ‘living’ religions today.
Olivia believes that there is Divine truth in all spiritual paths, and ultimately believes in the universality of God-Goddess-the Divine, manifest in nature and all of creation.