Off we go! The first REC 40th anniversary sponsored walk took place on Saturday 11th May. A good group of around sixty walkers assembled at the Al Khoei Centre. There was a small exhibition of material about the RE Council and the other charity with which sponsorship money will be shared, the Al Kawthar fund for Iraqi widows and orphans. A representative from the Ahl ul Bayt TV channel was there to do some filming and interview some of the participants.
The event started with a welcome talk from Sheikh Ahmed Haneef and short contributions from Drs Chris Hewer and Sarah Smalley, all focussing on the value of religious education in schools, the work of the RE Council and also the activities of the Al Kawthar charity. Midday prayers were followed by refreshments then the walkers set off. The weather forecast had been very gloomy and the skies were grey but the spirits of the walkers were high! We set off down Salusbury Road to the next port of call, the London Inter Faith Centre. This is housed in a church used jointly by Anglican and United Reformed congregations and we were given a warm welcome by the Rev'd Maggie Hindley.
The clouds darkened but we walkers moved cheerily on through the groups of Saturday shoppers (hoping they noticed our sashes which drew attention to the charities we were supporting).
Our next goal was St Augustine's, a magnificent and enormous Victorian Gothic church with a wealth of paintings and statues.This was a marked contrast as a building with the previous church but the welcome from Father Amos was equally warm and sincere.
Finally – and still dry! – we reached the Islamic Centre of England, where Sheikh Ahmed Haneef welcomed us again and gave a short talk about the Shi'a Muslim Centre which serves as a place of worship, study and community for the Maida Vale area and beyond.
The walk had so many positive aspects: religious education in the broadest sense, inter faith awareness, personal encounter and understanding, public relations and last but not least, fundraising for two very worthwhile causes. Congratulations to Aliya Azam and her team for such a successful event.
Postscript. A bonus to the walk was that Aliya had invited the local MP, Sarah Teather, to take part. She was unable to come but has instead agreed to a meeting in June with Aliya and other REC representatives to discuss religious education.