St Albans faith groups come together to make a stand against terrorism and violence

Ismaeel Yaqoob, St Albans Islamic Centre

Ismaeel Yaqoob, St Albans Islamic Centre - Credit: Archant

People of different beliefs came together in St Albans to show solidarity against sectarian violence and terrorism and to support Syrian refugees.

More than 70 people attended the event at the Maltings Arts Theatre entitled Poetry and Music of the Middle East.

The focus of the evening was a reading by the distinguished author Ruth Padel from her book Learning to Make an Oud in Nazareth.

The evening, organised primarily by the Ver Poets, began with a recitation of the daily prayers of Jews, Christians and Muslims – in Hebrew, Aramaic and Arabic – and then in English versions – to symbolise acceptance of different points of view.

Members of the St Albans Islamic Centre recited classic poems translated from the Arabic and the Jewish poet Yvonne Green read translations from Hebrew as well as some of her own work.

There were also musical interludes by the Cretan musician and singer Kalia.

Ver Poets spokesman Simon Bowden, said: “This was an edgy occasion – because no one knew until the last minute how it would work. In the wake of the Paris attacks, people were naturally nervous about taking part. But in the end, many were brave enough to come along and the spirit of the audience and the performers was fantastic.”

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Ruth Padel described it as “an absolutely magical event” and went on: “I have never experienced such an intimate and genuine sense of togetherness between performers and audience in a poetry reading before; I felt both humbled and awed that my one small collection had sparked off something of such serious power.

“All the performers, Muslim, Jew, Christian and agnostic, made strong and joyful bonds with each other and the audience and I was delighted to meet so many fascinating people.”

Among the organisers was the inter faith adviser for the St Albans diocese, the Rev Bonnie Evans-Hills, who said:” It was an honour, as a person of faith, to be asked to read alongside those of the Jewish and Muslim traditions, as well as those of other convictions. Art speaks a language of the heart and soul that both defies translation - and doesn’t ever really need it.”

Donations on the night raised almost £220 to help Syrian refugees and the money will go to the charity War Child which provides schooling for children in the refugee camps surrounding Syria.