The Women’s Interfaith Network (WIN) was formed by Lady Gilda Levy and Pinky Lilani in 2003, in response to the 9/11 terror attacks. Gilda, a Jewish woman and Pinky, a Muslim woman, realised that the strength of their friendship lay in their commonality as women and wished to bring together women from all backgrounds to build bridges and establish friendships. It's a London-based charity with local branches around the city, and if you want to know more about it you can visit their website or email them at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Every year, as regular listeners will know, WIN Waltham Forest organises an Inter Faith Walk, which is a day when the group's members and friends get together and walk from one place of worship to another, in each case being received warmly and given an introduction to the beliefs and activities of that particular community – and in almost every case, food. Joining the walk is not only demanding in terms of stamina, it also involves putting on quite a few extra pounds by the time you arrive back home. Being female isn't compulsory for the walk, which is how I managed to report on it this year and in some previous years.
This year's walk, now re-branded as a 'pilgrimage', started out from the Ahmadiyya Mosque on Erskine Road, right beside our little Elmsdale Road studio, then on to the Sri Sathya Sai Organisation's meeting place in Stoneydown Infants School on Pretoria Road, where we watched a very colourful and joyous ceremony involving lots of singing, and were given more food, then what the programme says is a 45 minute walk to I-Kuan Tao Temple on Orford Road (I think that time estimate is a bit of an exaggeration). This is a small but particularly beautiful temple whose walls are lined with hundreds of small Buddah statues, and where we were given more food and some very welcome wet flannels to cool us down.
From there we walked for an estimated 30 minutes to the Love Light Ministries Pentacostal Church, which meets in Queens Road Community Road. The ceremony this time took the form of a 'happy clappy' gospel song led by one of the ministers. We were issued with tambourines and urged to join in, to the slight embarrassment of some of the less outgoing visitors. And then we were given more food.
Our next port of call, after another approximate 30 minute walk, was a small wooden table outside the gates of Abbotts Park in Abbots Park Road, Leyton, where we were greeted by a small local contingent of Ba'hai Faith followers and invited to read passages from Ba'hai literature and listen to some music. In a windy outdoor environment this really called for more specialised equipment than what I had with me and didn't record very well. The food component was thankfully a bit lighter: nuts, dried fruit and apple juice.
Another 30 minutes and we came to Leytonstone Masjid Mosque on Dacre Road. Now they had made the very reasonable assumption that the Women's Interfaith Network would consist of women, and had arranged for us to be greeted by an all-female delegation from the Mosque's congregation. The honorary women such as myself had no objection to this of course and we were all made to feel extremely welcome.
After a talk and more food we made our way to what was for me the last stop, Leytonstone and Wanstead Synagogue, which thankfully was very near by. With my somewhat imperfect feet beginning to ache I chickened out of the final scheduled port of call, which was the Gurdwara Sikh Sangat on Francis Road, about 20 minutes from the synagogue. But I felt by then that I had done my bit for religious harmony and pined for a bit of mindless TV viewing.