Religious leaders back Guildford Muslim centre


By Stephanie Jones-Berry
September 23, 2011

LEADERS of different faiths in Guildford have united and spoken out to back the idea of a Muslim centre in the town.
Representatives of the Christian, Jewish and Muslim faiths have urged borough council planners to help address the fact that there is no place – other than the university – for the Muslim community to meet and pray in Guildford.
Last week, plans to set up a Muslim cultural and educational centre went to appeal – following a rejection by the borough council last year because of a lack of parking at the proposed site on Recreation Road.
The Rector of Holy Trinity and St Mary’s Church in Guildford, Reverend Robert Cotton, said he felt planning and not faith issues had hampered the process of the application so far.
He said: “It is important for the borough council to work positively with the Muslim community to find a solution to this situation.
Rev Cotton wrote in support of the application last summer along and around 30 members of his congregation added their signatures to his letter. He said: We recognise our community will be a happier, healthier and a more admirable place when there is a dedicated site within Guildford that acknowledges the contribution and culture of Muslims.”
Dr Husni Hammuda, who gives Friday sermons for the Muslim congregation at the University of Surrey in Guildford, said there is a lack of space for the ever-growing Muslim community within the borough and added that student numbers had risen over the last 10 years.
“We used to have a home for Friday prayers at the university and it used to be sufficient for around 200 people,” Dr Hammuda said.
“Now the number is 500 and even the biggest hall at university is struggling to take the numbers of people.
“Guildford is in need of a place for Muslims and we want Guildford Borough Council to help give us a solution.
“If there is a problem with that application, where is the solution?”
The Jewish chaplain at the University of Surrey lent his voice in support of a Muslim centre in the town and said he felt a town with Guildford’s county town status should be working with its religious minorities.
“My basic point of view is there is a need for a more permanent place and the planners should be should assisting the community and its leaders to develop a suitable place to worship,” he said.
“My understanding is the local Muslim community is happy and willing to develop their own site.
“I think the council should be assisting those who have religious needs for a place for worship – it is a significant community in the town.”
Osama Khan, Muslim Chaplain and senior tutor in accounting and finance at the University of Surrey, said he knew of many Muslim families in Guildford eager to have their own formal space in Guildford.
He said he was saddened that planning permission had been declined twice by the council.
Cllr Tony Rooth, leader of the council, said the organisation does not have a duty to provide accommodation or sites for any religious groups or faith.
He added, however, that the borough did have a “long term commitment to support equality of opportunity” for all residents.
He said: “Where local community groups identify sites, we can offer advice on their suitability.
“We welcome involvement from our whole community in future plans for the borough and treat all planning issues in a consistent and fair way.”

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Fear over Chaplaincy Cuts in NHS

logo Community professionals have expressed deep concern over the impact that reported cuts to chaplaincy provision in NHS hospitals will have on Jewish patients. A survey released this week by public theology thinktank Theos showed that chaplaincy care has been reduced by 54,127 hours a year since 2005. Sue Soloway, administrator of the United Synagogue’s visitation committee, told the JC: “Although the cuts have not impinged on us yet, if they did it would be a very wrong move on the part of the NHS. “People across the board appreciate chaplain visits and if these services are further reduced, it will be a great loss for all faiths.” Senior hospital chaplain and the minister of Bushey and District Synagogue, Rabbi Meir Salasnik, said: “The cuts are worrying but what is more worrying is the issues of data protection. In many hospitals, the chaplains are not able to find out what religion patients are unless specifically asked for by the patients.” Alex Goldberg, community issues director at the Board of Deputies, is a liaison officer at the Royal Surrey County Hospital. He said: “In my experience, there are Jewish people who have not associated with the Jewish community for more than 50 years, but value the support of a chaplain from their faith at times of illness. “It is a real shame that chaplaincy funding is being cut as it forms part of the care provision.” He added: “Even in hospitals where there is not an assigned Jewish chaplain, the chaplaincy staff will provide services for Jewish patients, so cutting the budget will mean our community professionals will have to work harder to reach Jewish patient. It is a sad reflection.” According to the United Synagogue Visitations Committee, there are 50 Jewish chaplains working for the NHS in England and Wales, in addition to 40 voluntary hospital visitors.