On Wednesday, the 'Friends in Faith' walk for peace become further established in Oxford's diary of annual community events. And they did indeed have balloons :-)
Thanks to the sterling efforts of the organisers, this was another success with hundreds of participants joining somewhere along the 2 mile route from the synagogue in Jericho (see above) via the University Church and to the Central Mosque in Manzil Way. With the generous help of the stewards and the police on their bikes, the procession wended its way smoothly, with traffic situation well contained. At each place of worship there were welcomes and readings, from very young to the not so young!
Onlookers expressed curiosity and seemed quite sympathetic. The main representations were from Jewish, Christian and Muslim faiths, but people of other faiths (and none) also joined because, I think, of the genuinely friendly spirit. It's reached the point where people are renewing acquaintances or already know each other because friendships have formed and/or they are involved in other activities of mutual interest.
This was my third walk. Initially I was weary from a day at the office, but as we strolled along the route, my head cleared and my conversations seemed to become steadily more interesting! Quite a few people I knew just seemed to come into view without my having to look for them, with connections spanning about 20 years, to the time my mother, Fuengsin Trafford, was active in interfaith (thriving in this kind of environment).
The walk concluded at the Central Mosque, where there was a fine buffet (its reputation has been established now!)
Generally speaking, movements in Oxford are relatively slow - you only have to consider the age of the University to see how it is used to gradual evolution. A member of the City Council was relating how compared with Leicester, Oxford is a long way behind. Further, a former City Councillor described how some churches wouldn't take part believing it would compromise their faith. Even so, I think there is sure progress, as evidenced by the growing support for an Oxford Council of Faiths. As if to confirm this general direction, it was the first public event for the incoming Bishop of Oxford, the Rt Revd John Pritchard, two days before his formal inauguration.