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Interfaith Staff Network

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The Interfaith Staff Network welcomes staff of all faiths, and no faith, to actively participate in conversations and events that aim to promote, and provide, a space for the different faiths and cultures in our community. Our network strives to embody the University's values of Inclusivity and Respect.

Our aims are to ensure that there is equal representation, awareness, and information about the diverse faiths and beliefs within our staff and student populations on campus, with special attention to promoting faith events. By working in collaboration with the Chaplaincy and a wide variety of colleagues, we hope to support a strong sense of belonging amongst all staff and students at St Mary's.

By linking with wider internal and external networks, we aim to ensure that we are listening to and raising the voices of all. This will include links with student-led networks and societies. The network will also feed into the wider Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Board, and so directly impact the University's People Strategy.


If you would like to join, or just find out more about the Interfaith Network at St Mary's, please contact co-chairs, Katharina Stegmann and Mandip Birk, by emailing

The High Holidays are a Jewish celebration of the New Year. They occur in the month of Tishrei in the Jewish calendar. These holidays are seen as the most important days in the Jewish calendar compared to other Jewish holidays. Like majority of the world, we follow the Gregorian calendar (Jan, Feb, March, etc.), but in Judaism, a lunisolar calendar is used. This means it is regulated by the position of the moon and sun.

Watch this High Holidays Video, or explore this page further.

How do Jewish People Celebrate/Observe the High Holidays? 

  • Rosh Hashanah is a celebration of renewal. Traditions include: the blowing of a ram horn, attending synagogue to hear the horn, and eating apple slices with honey. Another tradition is to throw bread onto running water which symbolises the removal of sin. This is referred as a Tashlich, which translates to ‘casting off’. 
  • Aseret Yemei HaTeshuvah involves limiting our involvement with worldly matters and increasing the studying of the Torah. 
  • Yom Kippur traditions include wearing white, spending the day in prayers and meditation, and ending the day’s fast with listening to the shofar horn, washing your hands and eating a meal.

The High Holidays include Rosh Hashanah (Sept. 25th– 27th), which translates to ‘head’ or ‘first’ of the year. On this day, there are religious services and celebrations, and it also marks the beginning of the Aseret Yemei HaTeshuvah, the Ten Days of Repentance

During those ten days, the main theme is reflection. This is done through praying, looking back on the past year, and building understanding as to how one may amend their actions and examine their conscience.

The ten days conclude on Yom Kippur (Oct. 4th– 5th), which is known as the Day of Atonement. This day includes a day of rest, but also fasting (from sunup to sundown), and other restrictions such as, bathing, wearing leather, anointing the body with oil, and sexual relations. Participating in this abstinence allows the individual to focus more on their relationship with God and their fellow religious community. At the end of Yom Kippur, there is the traditional ‘break fast’, which is held in synagogues, homes, and other community spaces where groups break their fast over a large meal together. Some rituals that take place during the break fast include washing your hands and reciting a blessing for eating bread/the meal. This is an enjoyable experience to share a meal with your loved ones and community.

At the end of Yom Kippur, it is believed that the new year has begun free of previous sins. Also, from the ten days of Repentance, the new year with a refreshed sense of morals and conscience.

Every year, Interfaith Week begins on Remembrance Sunday, and runs until the following Sunday. It is hoped that the additional Sunday provides the opportunity for other weekend events to take place as well as those linked to Remembrance Sunday. Remembrance Sunday was chosen as a start day to encourage people to remember together the contributions of all faiths and none, and to consider how best to create a just, peaceful, and harmonious world.

At St Mary's, we celebrate Interfaith Week with various events throughout the week. View our past events, and email if you have any suggestions for future events during Interfaith Week.

  • Chai and Chat - Diwali.
  • Craft and Chat.
  • Open Chapel and Chaplaincy.
  • Faith and Crafts.
  • Open Chapel and Chaplaincy.
  • Faith in Tune.

Live panel recording: Misconceptions of Faith

Meet Aaron and Navneet, Fusion Dance Class

Supporting Muslim staff and students during Ramadan

What is Ramadan?

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic lunar year and is the month of fasting. The dates of Ramadan vary depending on the moon sighting. Fasting is considered a duty upon all adults and healthy Muslims. Those who are acutely or chronically ill are not expected to fast, they will need to either feed 10 poor people, or pay expiation. However, menstruating, breastfeeding, or pregnant are not expected to fast, also they will need to pay expiation and they will need to fast later in the year to make up the days they did not fast. Also, children who haven’t hit puberty yet are not expected to fast.

Muslims regard Ramadan as an opportunity for self-purification, reflection, and a renewed focus on spirituality. Muslims appreciate the feeling of togetherness shared by family and friends throughout the month. It is also a month of charity giving and benevolence.

Muslims devote more time to prayer and acts of charity, striving to improve their self-discipline, motivated by the sayings or traditions of the Prophet Muhammad (Peace and Blessing be Upon Him). When Ramadan arrives, the gates of Paradise are opened, and the gates of hell are locked up and devils are put in chains.

The Qadr Night or Laylat al-Qadr (in English as the Night of Decree, Night of Power, Night of Value, Night of Destiny, or Night of Measures), is the night when the first verses of the Quran were revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (Peace and Blessing be Upon Him), and it is described to be better than a thousand months of worshipping.

Its exact date is uncertain, but it is one of the odd-numbered nights of the last ten days of Ramadan. Muslims have regarded the last ten nights of Ramadan as being especially blessed. Muslims believe that the Night of Qadr comes with blessings and mercy of Allah in abundance, sins are forgiven, supplications are accepted, and that the annual decree is revealed to the angels who carry it out according to Allah’s grace.

I manage and/or work with staff that are fasting, what do I need to know?

Fasting will start between 4am – 5am, and end around 6:30pm (there are slight variations to the times each day), but typically, a Muslim who is fasting will go without food or water for over 15 hours a day. Fasting can also be combined with disturbances in normal sleep pattern that can leave individuals feeling more tired than normal, particularly mid-afternoon, and towards the end of the day. Also, towards the later part of the day, some individuals that are fasting might feel a little lightheaded. 

An agreement to requests for slight adjustments to the working day during Ramadan will be appreciated by Muslim staff members. For example, some Muslim staff members may wish to start earlier in the morning, or have a shorter lunch break, so that they can finish early or work from home (especially if Muslims spend the whole nigh of Qadr Night at the mosque). Managers are asked to accommodate this where at all possible and within reason. 

It is considerate to avoid scheduling staff social activities or working lunches during Ramadan.

Some Muslim staff members may endeavour to practice their faith more during Ramadan than they might for the remainder of the year. Because of this, more Muslim staff might wish to offer prayers during the day. This will normally be around 12pm – 5pm, for a few minutes each.

I lecture student who are fasting, what support is available?

A range of support is available if you need it.

  • Islamic prayer room - The Prayer Room is located in the old building near the entrance hallway (reception). Please follow the signs. There are two adjacent male and female places for worship, along with washing facilities, noticeboards, and prayer mats.
  • The University’s Chaplaincy Team are available to students of all faiths, and can provide information regarding resources available to students, as well as people to speak to.
  • Ramadan may fall during the revision and assessment period. If your students are finding that fasting is affecting their ability to study, and prepare for their coursework and assessments, please speak to them to arrange maybe remote access of lectures and changes to deadlines.

If you or your students would like further advice and support, please speak to Student Services.

What happens when Ramadan ends?

The end of Ramadan is marked by the festival of Eid, for which some Muslim staff members will wish to take leave from work. The actual day Eid falls on will depend on when the new moon is sighted. For this reason, it might not be possible for the staff member to be very specific about the day they would like to be away from work. Again, managers are asked to take this into account and be flexible where possible.

A nine-day Hindu festival (2nd -11th April), which involves worship the nine forms of goddess dugra maa, concluding with Ram Navami.

During Chaitra Navrati, people clean their homes and wear new clothes during the festive period. The two important aspects of Chaitra Navratri are fasting and praying. Most devotees fast for nine days and eat only sattvic food, devoid of onion, and garlic. Non-vegetarian food is totally avoided.

There is more information on Chaitra Navratri on NDTV News.

Vaisakhi, sometimes called Baisakhi, takes place each year in April, and is celebrated across the world by Sikhs.

It is celebrated on 13th or 14th April, but why is it so important, and where did it come from?

The history of Vaisakhi

Vaisakhi has been a harvest festival in Punjab - an area of northern India - for a long time, even before it became so important to Sikhs.

In 1699, Guru Gobind Singh (10th Guru) chose Vaisakhi as the occasion to transform the Sikhs into a family of soldier saints, known as the Khalsa Panth (Sikhs who've been baptised). Guru Gobind Singh founded the Khalsa in front of thousands at Anandpur Sahib.

How is Vaisakhi celebrated?

Sikhs across the world will go to the Gurdwara on Vaisakhi.

However, vaisakhi is marked with nagar kirtan processions, which are processions through the streets (nagar means "town") and forms an important part of Sikh culture and religious celebrations. Kirtan is a term meaning the singing of hymns from the Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh holy book.

Langar (free kitchen) food is also served in the gurdwara and at stalls during the procession.

Easter is the most important festival in the Christian calendar. It celebrates Jesus rising from the dead, three days after he was executed.

When is Easter?

The date of Easter Sunday varies from year to year. It is celebrated on the first Sunday after the full moon, on or after 21 March.

There is more information on BBC Bitesize.

Passover is a celebration of the story of Exodus. During Passover, Jews remember how their ancestors left slavery behind them when they were led out of Egypt by Moses. Passover is celebrated with a series of rituals. Each ritual symbolises a different part of the story.

When is passover celebrated?

Passover (or Pesach in Hebrew) is one of the most important festivals in the Jewish year. It is a Spring festival that begins on the 15th day of Nisan, the first month of the Jewish calendar. The celebrations last for seven or eight days, depending on where you live. 

Facts about Diwali

The below content was found on the National Geographic website.

  1. Diwali is an important religious festival originating in India. People often think of Diwali as a Hindu festival, but it is also celebrated by Sikhs and Jains.*
  2. Diwali takes place annually and lasts for five days, marking the start of the Hindu New Year. The exact dates change each year and are determined by the position of the moon, but it usually falls between October and November.
  3. The word Diwali (or Deepavali as it’s sometimes called) means “row of lights” in an Ancient language of India, called Sanskrit. During this festival, people decorate their homes with lights and oil lamps, called diyas.
  4. For many people, Diwali honours the Hindu goddess of wealth, Lakshmi. The lights and lamps are said to help Lakshmi find her way into peoples’ homes, bringing prosperity in the year to come.
  5. It’s also a celebration of good triumphing over evil, and different legends based on this theme are associated with Diwali. In northern India, Hindus celebrate the return of the deities (gods) Rama and Sita to the city of Ayodhya, after defeating the evil king Ravana!
  6. In the region of Bengal people worship the goddess Kali, the destroyer of evil forces, during Diwali. And in Nepal (a country bordering north-east India), people celebrate Lord Krishna’s victory over the wicked king Narakaasura.
  7. But it’s not just about lights and legends, Diwali is a time to have fun with friends and family! People exchange gifts and sweets, enjoy delicious feasts, watch firework displays, and wear new clothes. It’s a time to clean and decorate your home, too.
  8. Rangoli is a popular Diwali tradition, these are beautiful patterns made using colourful powders and flowers. People draw rangoli on the floor by the entrance of their homes to welcome the gods and bring good luck!
  9. Today, this fascinating festival is celebrated by thousands of people in countries all around the world. During Diwali, Hindus living outside India gather at places of worship called mandirs to leave offerings to deities, watch firework displays, and eat delicious food together!
  10. The city of Leicester, in the United Kingdom, holds the largest Diwali celebrations outside of India. Every year, tens of thousands of people gather in the streets to enjoy vibrant shows of light, music, and dancing!


What is Holi?

It is a 2 day festival celebrated over the Indian subcontinent.

HOLI has been celebrated since ancient times and represents the arrival of spring and the triumph of good over evil.

On the first day, people would build a bonfire and offer prayers whilst circling it multiple times, often with a whole coconut and vessel of water.

The second day of the festival is celebration and welcoming of Spring. There would be colourful parades, folk songs, and traditional dancing. On this day people of all ages go into the streets and throw coloured powder and water over each other.

It is a joyful occasion bringing friends and family together.

How do you cope?

In March 2012, footballer Fabrice Muamba had a heart attack during a match. In this podcast he talks about his faith more than you usually hear in interviews like this, and it's definitely been an important part of his recovery.

Listen online.

Not Even Water

BBC Asian Network Podcast talking about young people's experiences of Ramadan

Listen online.


Every faith marks the circle of life with age-old rituals and ceremonies. But how are they celebrated and commemorated in a multi-faith, modern Britain? This documentary highlights many different faiths in helping to answer this question.

Watch all episodes online.