Visit to St. Peter's Church, Titchfield

leaders stPetersSharing Husayn

Wessex Jamaat visited St Peter’s Church, Titchfield on 26th November, 2014 to share the tragic story of Imam Husayn (as)and the martyrs of Karbala.  St Peter’s Church is the closest place of worship to Al Mahdi Centre. The Church was constructed in 680 C.E. – 61 A.H., the year in which the tragedy of Karbala took place. This year the months of Azaa in the Islamic calender, coincided with the period of Advent in the Christian year.
During these religious days of Azadari and Advent being observed by the respective communities the theme for discussion was exploring how the events of Ashura and advent lead to light of guidance in each of the two faiths; Islam and Christianity.  
Members of the Wessex Jamaat Al Mahdi Community spoke about the light of understanding that dawned on people as a result of the tragic martyrdom of Imam Husayn (a.s.) and his devoted companions on the day of Ashura (10th October, 680 C.E.), and how this this event is commemorated.
The Church members talked about the activities which take place in church during the season of Advent, the four weeks before Christmas.  

Below is a reflection of the event written by Zahra Jaffer, a young attendee representing Wessex Jamaat:

What does it mean to be a person of faith in our commercialist society? What methods do people of faith use in order to reflect and reconnect with God? What is the value of learning each other's practices and principles?
All of this and more was explored on 26th November 2014 by the members of the Al Mahdi Centre  as they joined the community in St. Peter's church in Titchfield for an evening of sharing shared principles and individual practices.
The evening commenced with the remembrance of God through recitations from both the Quran and the Bible. The event fell within spiritually significant periods for both faith groups. Sheikh Fazle Abbas Datoo shared with the congregation about how the months of Muharram and Safar are commemorated by the community. In these months Muslims recall the great stand for justice made by the grandson of the Noble  Prophet Imam Husayn, which ultimately led to the massacre of Husayn, his friends and his family. Sheikh Fazle abbas recounted how the commemoration of this tragedy is a solemn period, but provides an opportunity to focus on the values that Imam Husayn stood for. This commemoration invigorates the community and inspires people to live by these values.
Thereafter youth from the community contributed with ways in which they mark this auspicious time of azadari and derive benefits from it, ranging from helping the homeless via the annual 'CANpaign' and performing other charitable acts, inspired by the generosity of imam Husayn, to using the period as a time for introspection and self-development.
Congregation-StPetersThere was then a chance for members from the Christian community to share the significance of the period of advent. It came as a surprise to many of the guests that advent is in its essence a solemn period also, where Christians are required to reflect and better themselves, rather than to get caught up in the commercialism that seems to have taken over Christmas today. To that effect, priests in churches dress in purple, the colour of mourning and flowers are absent from churches until Christmas Eve.
Christmas is truly a celebration for one who has bettered oneself throughout advent, a striking resemblance to how Eid is only a celebration for one who has achieved a greater proximity to the Almighty during the course of the holy month of Ramadan. The spiritual significance of some  christian symbols were explored, such as the advent wreath and the Christingle.
The official programme drew to a close with prayers recited by representatives from both communities, highlighting our shared need before God, praying for each other and for those who are most in need. Despite the formalities ending the evening was far from over. Perhaps the most enriching part of the evening was the opportunity to socialise and discuss with each other over some refreshments. It is through such gatherings that we are able to enjoy each other's company and learn from each other. Every person who left the church did so feeling truly enriched.

Reflection from Jill and Ross Underwood of St Peter’s Church:

It was difficult to know what to expect so we approached the evening with open minds. A warm St Peter's welcome was extended to our visitors and everyone sat in a circle so all felt included.
I will admit that my husband and I were curious to learn more about our neighbours at the Al Mahdi centre. There were readings from the Bible and the Koran. We were fascinated to learn from the Sheikh about the tragedy at Kabala and saddened to think that people could treat their own kinsmen and women so, but on reflection we realised that there are many such incidents in our own history.  It was particularly meaningful to us as my husband was bought up Catholic and I am Anglican. Our history is littered with similar tragedies, but in today's culture we can live our lives in harmony.  
The question and answer session was equally fascinating and we were greatly impressed with the younger guests who were so fluent and well versed in their scriptures. We left feeling heartened that our two communities can support and grow closer in a highly secular society and work in harmony.
Reverend Susan Allman, the Priest Incharge at St Peters Church, remarked, “ We feel greatly encouraged and heartened by the message you brought to us last night and I personally feel I have a better understanding of the significance of the shedding of this man's innocent blood. Your preaching communicated this very effectively..."
“Thank you – that was a superb meeting last night, and I felt quite inspired! Their young people are a delight, and it was great to see any remaining stereotypes crumbling in front of their honesty and obvious devotion.“ Reverend  Jane Trevithick.


Al Mahdi Centre
Fontley Road
Titchfield, Fareham
Hampshire, PO15 6QR

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