Acknowledging the extent and impact of the cost-of-living crisis, Dean Russell, Watford MP, extended an invitation to faith leaders to attend a round-table discussion in Parliament. This key event was held in the Portcullis Parliamentary building at Westminster on Tuesday, 13 December. Various faith group representatives were invited to present their interventions to address the current crisis.
Amongst the invitees were Enoch Kanagaraj, CEO of One Vision charity, who chaired the event; Harjit Singh, Chair of Watford Interfaith Association (WIFA), who introduced the meeting. Also, Anthony Wagenersmith, from the Trans-European Division, attended in an advisory capacity, and Sharon Platt-McDonald reported on some of her departmental outreach interventions.
Dean Russell MP, in reflection on the Parliamentary visit, states:
"It was a pleasure to host local faith leaders in Parliament and hear of the inspiring community initiatives that our local religious groups undertake, including the important interfaith activities and volunteering that happens every day. I look forward to furthering collaborative working to support the residents of Watford at this difficult time and in the future."
The meeting transpired as a rich collage of experiences, testimonials, sharing of ideas and charting the prospects for future interventions. Common to the discussion was the realisation that singular outreach can only reach so far. Still, a collaborative effort enhances the productivity and reach of the projects to a more diverse range of individuals.
Enoch Kanagaraj, Vice Chair, WIFA and CEO of One Vision charity, in evaluating the event's efficacy, said: "This meeting was an opportunity for faith leaders to participate in discussions, sharing their thoughts and ideas on the challenges and opportunities presented by the cost-of-living crisis. We were able to share information on faith communities' steps to address the current cost of living and promote community well-being. I was delighted to chair the meeting and look forward to working with faith leaders in the future."
Assessing the meeting overview, Harjit Singh DL, Chair of WIFA and Chair of One Vision charity trustees, states: "It is important during the crisis that we are all equipped with useful resources to share with people in our organisations and neighbourhoods. When we all work together and build relationships with different faith communities, we can better help those in need."
Amongst the varying aims of the round-table discussion with MP Dean Russell were the following:
- To ascertain the sustainability of each faith group's initiative and highlight areas in which they require extra support to maintain and develop their outreach.
- To establish a more integrative focus; faith groups come together to evaluate their individual project and seek ways to expand the scope of their current work where necessary or make their existing initiative more impactful.
- Seek a way to gather feedback from the recipients of their initiatives to establish efficacy, relevance, and direction.
- Map the work of each faith group represented to ascertain value-added aspects of their interventions.
- Looking at ways in which they can undertake a more coordinated approach to avoid duplicity in local areas.
They established those future meetings needed to be scheduled to explore the above aspects in detail, and document a plan of action, to forge the way ahead.
The complete list of attendees was as follows:
- Harjit Singh DL – Chair of WIFA & Chair of Trustees
- Enoch Kanagaraj – Vice Chair WIFA & CEO, One Vision
- Sharon Platt-McDonald – Director, BUC Watford
- Anthony Wagenersmith – Director, Adventist Mission, TED
- Eve Ricketts – CEO, Meeting Needs
- Judith Brunji – Executive Secretary WIFA
- Freddy Chester – Three Rivers Council
- Shivani Dev – Three Rivers Council
- Akhtar Zaman DL – President SAHA
- Harwinder Singh – Watford Sikh Gurdwara
- Alan Fisher – Watford Synagogue
- Simon Cain – Bishop, Watford Latter-day Saints
- Imam Shah – Watford Hospital Chaplain
- Rev Tony Rindl – St Mary's Watford
- Murabi Shazaib Athar – Watford Ahamadiya Muslims
Following the meeting, individuals met and spoke with Labour Leader – Sir Keir Starmer and Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper. Later in a tour undertaken by MP Dean Russell, Enoch Kanagaraj, a member of Stanborough Park church, met with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and a few of the attending faith leaders.
Dr Jude Jeanville, pastor of Tottenham Lighthouse Adventist church, attended as an invitee, via One Vision charity, given his church's excellent outreach to their local community and current ministry to those in need.
Capturing the impact of the meeting, Dr Jeanville enthused:
"It was my first visit to our UK Parliament, the seat of political power in the United Kingdom.
"Through the influence of One Vision, the voice of the Seventh-day Adventist Church has a significant link where its voice can and is being heard within the corridors of Westminster.
"One Vision is working evidence of how we can impact not only our communities but even our Government. Enoch Kanagaraj and his team have won the attention and confidence of the local MP for Watford, Dean Russell. He is so impressed by his collaborative community interfaith dialogue and action in mitigating poverty and alleviating hardships in Watford. Beyond that, he has given him an audience with the prime minister.
"One Vision seeks to link community organisations and gain Government support to impact citizens' lives at the grassroots level, bringing emotional, mental, physical, psychological, spiritual, financial, and social well-being.
"We have been called to be the salt of the Earth, not to extricate ourselves from the real world but to be involved in it, to permeate it, mingle, minister, build relationships and win confidence; only so shall God's Kingdom come."
Please continue to pray for our collaborative work with faith leaders as we reach out in practical and impactful ways, augmenting our interventions to meet the diverse needs of individuals in our communities, in so doing, reflecting Christ's love to all.