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Interfaith minister with a ‘rainbow of friends’

INTERFAITH AMBASSADOR: Rev. Fujo Malaika

REVEREND FUJO Malaika, Manchester Peace activist, decided to train as a OneSpirit interfaith minister after her son got caught-up in gang culture and received a long prison sentence. She met another minister by chance. They talked, and she remembers thinking, 'Wow, now I understand my life’s journey!'

Malaika (her preferred name) describes herself this way:

“My roots are African, my heritage the Caribbean, and my experience British, as I was born in the UK.”

She’d grown up in a predominantly white, working class housing estate.

“We were the only black people, and I was called racist names on a regular basis,” she recalls. “In bed, I would pray and ask to be taught to teach the children to be kind to me and others.

“This then drew me to having a ‘rainbow of friends’ — Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Rastafarian and Christian. I was always wanting to connect with people’s heart and soul, regardless of faith or culture. So when I heard about interfaith ministers, and their belief in ‘Many ways, one truth’, I felt immediately at home.

“I was raised from birth by my late Guyanese grandmother who arrived here in the UK in the Windrush years of the 1950s. She passed away when I was 18 years old. The years following were tough for me, but as I matured I sensed the huge presence of a guide in my life. She is with me always, and often sends me messages of love, complete admiration and support for my work. She is my greatest inspiration and I love her deeply.”

As an active member of the Caribbean and interfaith community in Manchester, she continues to promote and celebrate the importance of peace, and the fact that “we are all part of a ‘human tribe’ regardless of background. She also remains very committed to challenging for the rights of black people.

Malaika is now one of 600 interfaith ministers who have been ordained by OneSpirit Interfaith Foundation since it began in 1997, and who — according to its website — are part of “the awakening of an inclusive global spirituality, in ourselves and in the world, through training and enabling open-hearted men and women to serve people of all faiths and none in our diverse communities”.

This October, a new group of trainee ministers will begin the same two-year programme that Malaika started in 2010 and graduated from in 2012. They will meet as a whole group for eight weekends spread over each year, plus two summer retreats, and will also take part in regular small study groups and assignments.

Jackie Amos Wilkinson, the Foundation’s faculty lead, says the OneSpirit training “is both profound and simple. It is a supported self-inquiry into some key questions: Who am I? Who or what is God? And how can I use my gifts to serve the whole?”.

It has four main components — exploring the world’s great faith traditions, each person exploring their own biography, developing skills in holding ceremonies, and also in spiritual counselling.

This, she says, “is a unique and amazingly beautiful way to find oneself and one’s expression in the world. And it’s not only the bright and luminous parts of ourselves we have to find, but the dark side too, the parts we would prefer to remain hidden. Sometimes this process can be disturbing and unnerving. So it has to be held and supported with a tender heart, and deep love and compassion.”

You can read more details about the training are on the OneSpirit website: www.interfaithfoundation.org.

A number of scholarships have been made available by the Foundation’s trustees for “outstanding applicants with leadership potential” who can show that they “represent or serve a disadvantaged or under-represented community”. Details can be found at: https://www.interfaithfoundation.org/course-details-fees/

The training ends with an annual ordination ceremony for the new One Spirit interfaith ministers. They become independent ‘freelance’ ministers, without churches or temples or mosques. Many work as celebrants, leading weddings, funerals and other ceremonies, and supporting people as spiritual counsellors.

Many also express their calling by working in other professional fields - for example as teachers, doctors, therapists, and nurses in healthcare and hospices. Others work in voluntary roles as chaplains to police services, prisons and hospitals. Some work in business and the arts, others are committed to community action, or to caring responsibilities in their families.

Malaika works as a celebrant, spiritual counsellor and public speaker, and also has a passion for leading workshops.

“I create and deliver Peace Mala, Forgiveness, and Personal & Spiritual Development workshops along with bespoke ceremonies,” she says. More details can be found at: www.revymalaika.co.uk

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