Service leaders Rauf Bashir and Rev Jim Corrigall in  Padiham Unitarian Chapel.     Photo: John Hewerdine 

A vibrant multi-faith service attracted 200 people to Padiham Unitarian Chapel in Lancashire on Sunday 24th September 2017, for an extraordinary celebration of music and songs from around the world.

The large congregation joined in as an inter-faith women’s choir, Sacred Sounds, led songs from many traditions, including Jewish (in Hebrew), Christian (Gospel), Hindu and Muslim, and from Celtic spirituality.

They were followed by the Shahe Mardan group, who introduced a form of Sufi Muslim devotional singing known as Qawwali.  This combines South Asian musical instruments, including drums, with haunting devotional songs of great power.

Sufi Qawwali musicians from the group Shahe Mardan begin their devotional singing.     Photo: John Hewerdine.

The service was introduced with prayers and readings from Sacred Scripture (the Bible and the Qur’an) by the organisers, the Unitarian Minister Rev Jim Corrigall, and Rauf Bashir of the Free Spiritual Centre in Pendle.
In a short address, Jim Corrigall said while those taking part were from different traditions, it was vital that people of faith joined in celebrating what they had in common, above all the core teaching of all faiths, that “love and peace should rule our hearts and our societies”.   “In this spirit, we raise our songs of joy and hope to God,” he said.

Rauf Bashir said the essence of Sufism is about striving for nearness to God – and music represents a key pathway for this.   He explained about different types of Sufi music and songs -- which express “the longing to be closer to God”.

Rauf Bashir concluded: “Just as the rain and the sun do not differentiate between peoples, neither should we.   Only when you experience friendship across cultures, do you understand that there are good people in all communities.  God showers unlimited love and mercy on us all, if we choose to receive it.”