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Leila steals the show at St Ethelberga’s inter-faith peace festival in Bishopsgate

PUBLISHED: 18:36 18 May 2015 | UPDATED: 18:58 18 May 2015

Leila gets a front seat at the mini festival

Leila gets a front seat at the mini festival

William Barylo

A little girl of three-and-a-half stole the show when she became the centre of attention at an inter-faith festival, sitting squarely in the middle of the floor.

Leila makes friends with Viviana Esse, St Ethelberga’s project coordinatorLeila makes friends with Viviana Esse, St Ethelberga’s project coordinator

Leila Hathaway was listening to storytelling and songs from different faiths when the Tuye festival attracted 120 spectators to St Ethelberga’s Peace Centre at Bishopsgate, in the City of London.

The festival was organised yesterday by the Shinnyo-en Japanese Buddhist denomination as part of a social action project for people getting together from diverse faiths.

Leila, whose dad Keita is a leading member of the Shinnyo-en temple in Surrey, made special friends with Viviana Esse, a Sufi Muslim who is St Ethelberga’s project coordinator, to sing festival songs with lyrics from different faiths.

Performers taking part included Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Atheists, Christians and Jews, exploring the common roots of belief.

'Secret Garden of Peace' tucked behind St Ethelberga's in Bishopsgate'Secret Garden of Peace' tucked behind St Ethelberga's in Bishopsgate

Fahad Khalid played Asian folk jazz on a steel-string guitar inspired by Indian Raagas and Arabic Maqams, the Tabouli choir sang Jewish liturgical and folk songs, Brahma Kumaris singer Minal Patel performed with internal spirituality, Jaydev played classical Indian Raagas on sitar and the Pearls Afro-Carribean Muslim duo performed a mix of Nasheeds, Rap, poetry and spoken word.

St Ethelberga’s, with its ‘hidden garden of peace’ tucked away between the office towers near Liverpool Street, has a tough history standing up to whatever violence fete throws at it.

The ancient church, first recorded in 1250 and rebuilt in 1411, survived the Reformation of 1534, the Great Fire of London in 1666, Blitz damage in 1940 and the IRA Bishopsgate bombing in 1993.

It was reopened as the Centre of Reconciliation by Prince Charles after surviving threats to demolish it altogether—a testimony to a determined people’s campaign to spread peace among all faiths.

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