Government launches "Year of Service" initiative at national Baha'i center
LONDON, England — A government-sponsored initiative to encourage people of all beliefs to help improve their local neighborhoods has been launched at the national Baha'i center here.
The program, titled "A Year of Service," aims to recognize the role of faith in inspiring charitable work, and promote collaboration between the United Kingdom's nine major faith communities – Baha'i, Buddhist, Christian, Jain, Jewish, Hindu, Muslim, Sikh and Zoroastrian.
Twelve special volunteering days are being held during 2012, each of them coinciding with an existing religious festival and focusing on a distinct theme for community action.
Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Eric Pickles MP, joined faith leaders and guests of all ages for the launch and first volunteering day on 28 February at 27 Rutland Gate in London – the national Baha'i center. The occasion also marked the annual Baha'i Intercalary Days, a period specifically dedicated to service and hospitality.
"A Year of Service is a wonderful celebration of the practical contribution that faith groups make to enrich their neighborhoods and improve the lives of those around them," Mr. Pickles said ahead of the launch. "We would be poorer by far without their contribution..."
Some 50 guests of all faiths assisted in the decorating of cakes and the wrapping of donated clothing and toiletries, all of which were later distributed at a church-sponsored shelter for the homeless in the west of London.
Speaking on behalf of the Baha'is of the UK, Kishan Manocha said, "Faith should be a source of joy, of bringing people together in common purpose. We hope that the launch will give vivid expression to these special fruits of faith and inspire us all in our efforts to improve our neighborhoods."