The Legacy of Brother Daniel
The life of Brother Daniel has had a deep impact on people from various backgrounds and traditions. If you wish to learn more about his witness and commitment, please read the following collection of testimonies and biographical information (drafted by the Westminster Inter-Faith team).
A collection of slides: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lKeZbR7XHOA .
Five thoughts from Dr Tony McCaffry, a long time friend and collaborator, (19 January 2013)
1. Priorities. Daniel did not consider himself to be worthy of special attention – but he did consider his work in facilitating interfaith relations to be very important. He would not want his legacy to be a matter of looking back to him and bemoaning the good old days when Daniel was about: rather, take encouragement from his example of dedicated service with a smile and look around at our own present-day, its peoples, its needs, its future.
2. Realism. Daniel became involved in Southall on the back of violent unrest in the community. The efforts of many, like Daniel, over the years have made for greater understanding and tolerance. But it cannot be presumed to continue if it is not well maintained – examples from elsewhere in this country and around the world show how destructive matters of religion can become. The work Daniel championed is not an optional extra – it is central and essential.
3. Relationships. Daniel went out every day, resolved to learn something new: he rarely came back disappointed. To walk through town with him was to encounter many people – and he had time for them all. His own agenda was less important to him than theirs. Everyone, for Daniel, was a ‘umg’ – a unique manifestation of the godhead. He took this conviction into his dealings with faith communities, not being blind to the politics or lack of skill sometimes holding them back, but aware that there was good news to be appreciated in there too. We need to be Daniels in our own small way, talking to ‘others’, crossing thresholds, showing hospitality, as individuals and as communities. Can we share the task/privilege of being outward-looking, keeping lines of communication open and regularly maintained? Barricades (of physical things or careless ignorance have no place, either in our minds or between our communities. What do we plan to do to make it happen?
4. Resources. Daniel spent a huge amount of time researching the sacred texts of many to discover their riches to share with others. Publishing was a painful chore for him – but knowing others had been helped and encouraged by the resources he collected and collated was reward enough. Is it time to establish a website for the world to benefit from this library of work? Could there be a Southall-based group to pick up e-mail inquiries and to champion best practice?
5. Prayer. Daniel had his own ‘Quiet Room’ in his house on Church Avenue – and he daily visited St. Anselm’s. His memorial reminds us of his conviction that ‘the lamps are many but the light is one’. In a world of diversity, all people of faith need to recognise their tendency to ‘privatise’ their God, making God their own particular property, not at all anyone else’s. Daniel would indeed have agreed with Fr. Patrick Purnell’s poetic description of God as “The one in whom there is no alienation”. Could St. Anselm’s stand out as a place where prayer is honoured as every person’s opportunity? Perhaps the ‘Resources’ (point 4, above) could help make this so? Could we learn to pray all people’s prayers and celebrate all their festivals, in honour of the One Undivided Godhead? How could we start to make this happen?
The Dedication of a Memorial Plaque .
Fr. Gerard Mitchell, SJ writes: Friends and Family of the late Brother Daniel Faivre gathered in St Anselm’s Church on Saturday 29 October, 2012 for the dedication of a plaque in his memory.
Brother Daniel Faivre was a well loved and familiar figure and worked in Southall for 28 years to bring about harmony and understanding between different faith groups.
In 1979 Bishop Gerald Mahon, Catholic Bishop in West London, asked Brother Daniel, a Frenchman residing in Southall, to start working full-time in the interfaith field..
Brother Daniel himself had worked in Thailand for fifteen years and had been headteacher of a Catholic school where ninety percent of the students were Buddhists.
Southall in West London, with its rich cultural and religious mix, was an excellent location in which to gain experience in the ways and methods of interfaith dialogue. Brother Daniel systematically built up the work, establishing and strengthening relations between people of different faiths, Sikhs, Muslims, Hindus and Christians.
It was important to Brother Daniel to ensure that the supreme importance of the dignity of the human person, irrespective of creed and culture or social condition, should be clearly affirmed. An interfaith group was established, where people of different faiths could meet on a monthly basis, exchange information, visit each other’s places of worship and exchange good wishes on religious festivals.
The work developed and flourished. As community awareness grew, other activities were started, the most significant of which were the get-togethers and, most successful of all, the annual multifaith pilgrimages, a landmark in the interfaith scene in the UK since 1986.
The Annual Multifaith Pilgrimage for Peace returned to Southall on Saturday 11th June 2011 to mark its founding 25 years before by Brother Daniel. St Anselm’s Parish welcomed the pilgrims to our church with a service of prayer. During refreshments afterwarads in the Hall visitors spoke very fondly and appreciatively of Brother Daniel. One of our visitors suggested that it would be good to have a memorial plaque to Daniel mounted in the Church.
Our Parish Interfaith group enthusiastically took up this suggestion. The project was generously supported by many and John Beavington, Master Letter, Master Lettercarver of Uxbridge was commissioned and produced a very beautiful plaque in beige Pembroke stone which is now mounted on the wall of the Blessed Sacrament Chapel in the church close to the place where Daniel customarily sat over so many years
The plaque reads:
<<Brother Daniel Faivre SG 1929-2007
Worked in Southall for 28 years
to bring about harmony and understanding
between different faith groups.>>
There is an image of a flame to the left of the text and the caption:
“The lamps are many but the light is one.”
The Dedication of the Plaque took place in St Anselm’s Church on Saturday 29th September. Bishop Alan Hopes welcomed all present and gave an address in which he said: “ In the spirit of Brother Daniel continue to work to build bridges of friendship to other religions, to heal past wrongs and to foster trust between individuals and communities”.
There then followed a Time for Reflection, composed from the writings of Br Daniel with readings from different religious traditions (Hindhu, Buddhist,Jewish, Christian, Muslim and Sikh) followed by a time for quiet reflection. At the end of the readings, members of Brother Daniel’s family who had travelled from France for the occasion and members of his religious community, the Brothers of St Gabriel from Rome and France and Jon Dal Din of Westminster Interfaith, lit candles for all present. Then, with candles lit the assembly made an Act of Commitment “as people of many faiths, to work together for the common good, uniting to build a better society, grounded in values and ideals we share”.
The Bishop then blessed the plaque and all present exchanged a sign of peace.
Friends of Brother Daniel then gave their appreciation of him, Father Michael Barnes, S.J., Mr. Virendra Sharma, Member of Parliament for Southall, and Mr Anjit Singh OBE
At a reception in the Hall afterwards Councillor M. Aslam, the Mayor of Ealing welcomed everybody and made a toast and people shared their happy memories of Daniel.