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Marriage and Family

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Marriage and Family

Discussing Marriage and Family in Birmingham

“We can’t fit any more people in” Patricia was overhead saying to Velimira, at about 8.00 pm on the evening of April 1, 2008. “We’d better lock the door.”

A good headache, perhaps. For the first time in more than 15 years, we had run out of both space and chairs. Was it the fact that word had spread throughout Birmingham, England, about the impending arrival of Dr. Mohammad Abdul Raheem Khan and Eddie Hartley? Or the fact that there was to be free food after the event? Hopefully, it was the topic under discussion that generated such interest: ‘Marriage and family in our present-day society.’

It’s a very emotive subject, to say the least. It's easy to tread on people’s toes. So we tried hard from the outset to emphasize that, in promoting the importance of marriage and the value of the family, we are not seeking to condemn those who choose something other than marriage, or to criticize those who are suffering the consequences of a broken home. However, we feel the need to promote ideals, as something to aspire towards, especially for young people, and to address what we think is one of the root causes of many of the ills of our society.

Eddie gave a very good, factual overview of the current state of affairs here in the UK, together with some statistics and plenty of suggestions as to what we might try to do to improve things. Dr. Khan, Vice Chair of the Muslim Council of Britain, spoke about some of his interfaith experiences, particularly recent ones in Epsom, where he lives, and suggested that the only meaningful way forward is ‘together’, pooling our energies and resourcefulness, as Christians, Muslims, and Jews, and as people who care.

Three Ambassadors for Peace from Birmingham then shared their thoughts and feelings: a Sikh educator who has taken a four-year sabbatical to research new methods of educating children as preparation for beginning an interfaith school, a black Christian minister who risks his life on a daily basis at the sharp end of things, mingling with the guns and gangs on the street, and a Hindu lady activist who believes passionately in the family as the school where we should learn all our basic values and attitudes to life.

The next 30 minutes was a free-for-all, turning to one's neighbors and chewing over the subject matter in small groups. Fortunately, the event was in a detached house; otherwise, the energized discussion would have brought the neighbors around in droves. It was a sight (and sound) to behold! A hundred and twenty people, spread through four different rooms, trying to find the ultimate solution to bring about world peace. Or, at least, to come up with one or two practical projects which can really make a difference in our society. We gathered in everyone’s suggestions and will try to distill their essence into one or two sustainable activities.

We then asked Dr. Khan, as one of our most respected Ambassadors for Peace, to present eight new people with Ambassador for Peace certificates. He did this with great style and seriousness, and then proceeded to deliver his excellent pep talk about the award being not just a recognition of past achievements but also a mandate to do even more in the future.

(A couple of days later, we received a letter of thanks from a Sikh friend who was presented the certificate by Dr. Khan. He movingly said that he didn’t know what to do with the award, as he has ”accepted the teaching that I need to be humble and work without expecting and accepting personal rewards.”)

After reading a short extract from the Peace Message entitled "True Parent, True Teacher, True Owner," we concluded with Jewish and Buddhist meditations.

The focus of attention then shifted to the kitchen where, almost single-handedly, Natasha dispensed 100 somosas, two kilograms of pakoras, numerous pizzas and vegetarian quiches, enough humus, pita bread and chips to feed a small army, all garnished from several multi-colored bowls of salad. The main problem became not getting into, but getting people out of, the kitchen as dozens of spontaneous conversations broke out in the warm, spice-laden atmosphere. In the end, all seemed to have had their fill and many stayed on to chat together, in particular two pairs of people who had both, seemingly ‘by chance’, met up again after not seeing each other for around 20 years! Well, the evening was worth it just for that to happen.

Lots of positive comments came our way, both during the evening and over the course of the next few days. It’s especially nice to have elderly people seeing a bit of light on the horizon. Typical is a letter from one 80-year old lady who started by saying, “Thank you for that most fascinating and hope-giving evening last week."

Thanks also to Dr. Khan and Eddie who are making the effort to take the message around the country. To Velimira, Natasha and Jonathan who worked hard behind the scenes. And to all the good-hearted people who came together to create a small piece of heaven, and the very real feeling of one family under God.

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