OCF’s Chief Executive and President were delighted to attend the service in Windsor, along with hundreds of representatives from communities in Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire. Organiser The Oxford Foundation has recently set up a named fund with OCF to channel any fundraising.
The Oxford Foundation works to challenge extremism, empowering young people through education. Led by Monawar Hussain, Imam at Eton College and Oxford resident, the foundation promotes inter-faith dialogue, counters child sexual exploitation and is directly challenging Islamist extremist doctrine via an open letter to so-called Islamic State. The United for Peace initiative is a national project consisting of a series of events that unite community leaders of all faiths in reflection and discussion.
The most recent United for Peace event was held at Dorney Lake, Windsor on 20th April 2016, and brought together leaders from across the counties of Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire. It was delivered in partnership with the Lord-Lieutenancies of the three counties, as well as Oxford Diocese and Oxford Muslim College. The service is the third in a series that started in Oxford in 2015. The full order of service can be downloaded here, and a video report of the service is available here.
As well as prayers and reflections led by faith leaders from the Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, Baha’i, Buddhist and Humanist communities, the service included two moving recollections from individuals whose lives had been directly affected by extremist violence. Mike Haines talked about his brother, a humanitarian worker killed by terrorists in Syria in 2014. He said: “This country we live in, where we have made our homes, where we have brought up our children, where we practice our faith, is in danger. Not only from the bullets and bombs of terrorists, but from the far more insidious fear and suspicion that the terrorists seek to sow. Our communities are being pushed apart, and we cannot let this happen. We cannot let them win.
“Since my brother’s murder I have travelled across our nations and abroad visiting schools, mosques, churches, youth groups, organisations. I talk of unity, tolerance and understanding and how important it is that we fight this hatred and fear. How important a hand of support and friendship can be.
“Standing with you all, extending the hand of friendship, the willingness to learn from one another, makes me proud and filled with hope of what we can achieve. Most of all, thank you for the opportunity to make a stand with you against hatred.”
The second personal story was told by Ahmad Nawaz, who survived a massacre at Peshawar Military School in Pakistan. He said: “My survival in that massacre is a miracle. This is my second life and now I am determined to continue my own education and work for the education of all those children who are deprived of the fundamental human right of education. That’s why I started a campaign for education, and I want to continue spreading this great message throughout the world. Because only by education we can defeat terrorism.
“I dream of peace, safety and education for every child. I dream no child has the fear of being killed for learning. I dream every school stays safe for children. I dream of love, harmony and peace in this world.”