Representatives of all the UK’s major faiths have gathered for the first ever interfaith seder hosted by the Board of Deputies of British Jews, at the home of President Marie van der Zyl.
Guests at Thursday’s event included the Archbishop of the Coptic community, Archbishop Angaelos, The Bishop of London, The Rt Revd and Rt Hon Dame Sarah Mullally DBE and the Right Revd. Kenneth Nowakowski, Bishop of the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy, as well as Muslim, Sikh and Hindu leaders including Akeela Ahmed OBE, Jasvir Singh CBE and Nitin Palan MBE. The service was led by Rabbi Lindsey Taylor-Guthartz, with input from Jewish participants around the table. The Deputy Mayor of London for Communities and Social Justice, Debbie Weekes-Barnard, also attended.
Following the event, Marie van der Zyl said: “It was both an honour and a pleasure to host such an eminent and diverse interfaith group at my house for our first interfaith seder. Such events can only bring us closer together and increase knowledge of our different traditions and faiths.”
The theme of freedom was poignantly addressed by The Right Revd. Kenneth Nowakowski, Bishop of the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy. He told the gathering: “Often when we think about what ‘freedom’ means it is in the context of freedom ‘from’. These past years have been filled with great challenges for all of us, we had to live through Covid-19, and this past year we have witnessed war in Ukraine and the millions of displaced people. During the Covid restrictions we lost many freedoms to prevent the spread of this deadly pandemic. With the lifting of the restrictions we once again had the ‘freedom to…’ I think about ‘freedom from the anxiety and fear’ that this in war Ukraine has thrown on us. But I also think about the term ‘freedom to…’ We have so much to celebrate once we are feeling liberated because now, we can say I have the freedom to…”
Other guests spoke of the significance of bringing faith leaders together to share traditions. The Rt Revd and Rt Hon Dame Sarah Mullally, Bishop of London said: “It was both a privilege and a joy to attend the interfaith seder and accept the wonderful hospitality offered by the Board of Deputies. This is an important time for Christians and Jews alike when we remember what God did in the past so that we know who He is for us today, and I was delighted to be invited to mark this with friends from across different faith communities.”
Archbishop Angaelos, of the Coptic Orthodox Church said: “It was a privilege to attend the pre-Passover Interfaith Seder. The rich explanations of the spiritual practices resonated with our own reading and understanding of Old Testament Scripture and it was particularly moving to see them practiced in this day and age. We pray blessings upon our sisters and brothers in the Jewish community for this coming festive period and we pray with them for peace in our world.”
Revd. Dr Jonathan Hustler, Secretary General of the Methodist Church agreed that: “To be around the table sharing in such a deep appreciation of a central Jewish festival was a marvellous opportunity both to deepen understanding of Jewish traditions and to reflect on what it means to be (or not to be) free. More importantly, it was simply a joy to share with others of very different traditions in a celebration of being the people of God.”
Business leader, social entrepreneur and government adviser Akeela Ahmed said: “I would like to thank The Board of Deputies and Marie van der Zyl for inviting me to participate in the interfaith Passover Seder. It was a beautiful experience and I very much enjoyed learning about the story of Passover and the opportunity to take part in the traditions. It was a special way to connect with others across cultural and religious heritage and to strengthen community bonds.”
Image credit: Gary Perlmutter
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