In February our Patron, Iain Duncan Smith, wrote an excellent article for our website emphasising the importance of recognising all faiths and none in delivering hospice care. Iain had World Interfaith Harmony Week in mind when he wrote the article which has since provided a useful opportunity for those of us in the hospice sector to assess the progress we have made in catering for different groups within our communities.

As Iain pointed out, the principle of inclusivity remains essential for hospices such as Haven House, due to the large diverse areas that we serve. Iain was generous to praise the “commendable progress” the sector has made in strengthening its links with Muslim communities in recent years. Approximately one-third of our children come from Muslim backgrounds, though we know there are more Muslim children in our area we do not yet reach and as Iain rightfully said progress needs to be extended to other faith groups too.

A lot of our children and families live in the London Borough of Redbridge, which is also home to one of the largest Sikh populations in the capital. The size of this population is not reflected in the number of Sikh families who use Haven House. We need to do a lot more work if we are to reach more Sikh children, which is why it was so useful for the hospice to recently receive a visit from the UK Sikh Healthcare Chaplaincy Group.

Over the past few months the group has visited hospitals and hospices across the country with the aim of strengthening links between the healthcare sector and Sikh communities. At the end of January, Parminder Kaur Kondral and her colleagues, Rajinder Kaur and Charanjit Kaur, conducted a prayer session for Haven House staff, families and children. It provided a spiritual insight into the Sikh faith and a moment for personal reflection which all too often can be lost during the course of a busy day.

For the prayer session, we were given the English version of the Mool Mantar, the most important composition contained within the Sri Guru Granth Sahib, the holy scripture of the Sikhs and also text for the Shabad, a hymn. The session ended with the Ardās, a Sikh prayer, which was performed for the wellbeing of our children, families and staff and for world peace. Parminder then kindly gave out sweets in the tradition of Langar (free kitchen) which expresses the ethics of sharing, community, inclusiveness and oneness of all humankind. For some of our staff this was their first introduction to the Sikh faith and it provided a memorable morning for all. We hope Parminder and her colleagues will visit Haven House again in the future.

Mike Palfreman is the Chief Executive of Haven House.

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