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This is an archived website containing material relating to Dr Rowan Williams’ time as Archbishop of Canterbury, which ended on 31st December 2012

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Archbishop's visit to Dawoodi Bohra Mosque and Jain Temple

The Archbishop visits the Jain Temple at the Oshwal Centre

Friday 7th May 2010

During two days of inter faith visits on 6th and 7th May, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams visited the Dawoodi Bohra Mosque, Northolt, and the Jain Temple at the Oshwal Centre, Potters Bar.

These visits gave the Archbishop an opportunity to recognise the large contribution these two small religious groups have made to the wider faith community, and to society as a whole.

On Thursday the Archbishop visited as guest of honour, Al Masjid al Husaini, in Northolt, the largest Dawoodi Bohra Mosque in the western world and beautifully constructed in the Fatimid style.

This was preceded by a visit to the local parish church of St Mary and St Richard's, in Northolt, where the Archbishop admired the recent restoration work. The vicar, the Revd Greville Thomas accompanied the Archbishop on his visit to the masjid along with the Rt Revd Richard Cheetham, Bishop of Kingston and Chair of the Christian Muslim Forum.

On arrival he was welcomed by His Highness Prince Ezzuddin and His Highness Prince Badruddin, sons of His Holiness Dr Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin, spiritual leader of the Dawoodi Bohras.  His Holiness was himself able to be present to greet the Archbishop, being on a visit to the United Kingdom from the community's centre in India. Dr Williams was also introduced to dignitaries and trustees and members of the community by the President, Dr. Zainuddin.  

The Archbishop gave an address, during which he recognised the strong contribution of the Dawoodi Bohra to good relations with other faiths and particularly to the Christian Muslim Forum, and to British society generally. 

"It has been a great grace and blessing to once again meet His Holiness Dr Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin. It has been an inspiration to see signs of his work, his teaching and his example in his immediate family and his wider family which is the community here."

"I hope and trust that we shall continue our friendship based on the love that God has shown us. A love that allows us to enrich one another with the gifts God gives us."

The Archbishop visited the Madrasah which provides religious and cultural education for the communities' children where he met current students and teachers.  He then attended an exhibition in the courtyard displaying key areas of interest highlighting the Islamic Faith, the community's main infrastructure and the cultural and social activities intrinsic to the Dawoodi Bohra community.  He was also invited to plant a tree in the grounds.

On Friday the Archbishop continued his inter faith visits by visiting the Jain Temple at the Oshwal Centre in Potters Bar, Hertfordshire.  Temple and associated buildings are set in extensive grounds which have been greatly enhanced by the community.

The Jain community in the United Kingdom is one of the smallest of the nine religions represented in the Inter Faith Network for the UK with around 15,000 members in the UK but plays a significant role in inter faith relations and in the wider community.

The Archbishop's visit was co-hosted by the Oshwal Association UK and the Institute of Jainology, the two main Jain community organisations who work closely together.  On arrival, the Archbishop , who was accompanied by the Archdeacon of Hertford, The Ven. Trevor Jones,  was welcomed by Mr Ashok Shah, President of Oshwal Association UK ,) and Mr Ratilal P Chandaria and Mr Nemu Chandaria, Chair and Deputy Chair of the Institute of Jainology.

The Archbishop addressed the community, thanking them for their warm hospitality and congratulating them on the construction of the temple and on their "immense contribution to the religious awareness of humanity". Dr Williams also spoke of the role that small communities often have in mediating the interests of large communities.

"To sense and experience something of the wisdom, the vision and perspective which Jainism brings [in this conversation] has been a great privilege."

"What you have shown and shared has opened my eyes to yet more dimensions of the human search for that liberty that we all seek as part of our human dignity."

During his visit, Dr Williams was presented with a short talk on this history of Jains and Oshwals, followed by a presentation by the Institute of Jainology, including their current project to digitise all Jain manuscripts.  The Archbishop said "I have been delighted and admiring of the skill and devotion represented in the temple, but also of the skill and devotion in terms of making this rich heritage more widely available."

Although the Archbishop has previously met leaders of the Jain community at Lambeth Palace, this was his first visit to a Jain temple and centre. 

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