Rev Inderjit Bhogal, former leader of the Corrymeela Community and former president of the British Methodist Conference, has been announced as the recipient of the 2018 World Methodist Peace Award.
Inderjit is currently working with Churches Together in Britain and Ireland (CTBI) on the Church of Sanctuary project, to encourage local congregations to become churches of sanctuary.
The World Methodist Peace Award goes to individuals or groups ‘who have made significant contributions to peace, reconciliation and justice’.
Inderjit has been a tireless supporter of refugees and has worked to foster interfaith relations and multicultural communities. One of the peace-related movements initiated by him was City of Sanctuary, a grassroots, movement to build cultures of welcome, hospitality and safety.
‘My whole life has been inspired by people around the world who have held up the witness to peacemaking, challenging war, violence and killing’, he wrote after learning about the peace award.
With polarisation and more fractured relations between nations ‘the most challenging issue facing human beings is how to live with those who are different from you’, commented Inderjit.
Inderjit Bhogal’s parents were forced to leave Punjab after the partition of British India into India and Pakistan in 1947. Inderjit was born in Nairobi, Kenya, four years later. After Kenya became independent, the family had to leave once again, arriving in England in 1964.
That early immigrant experience, his decision to start going to church because there was no Sikh temple available and his embrace of the story of Christ led him to become a Methodist minister and to focus on interfaith peacemaking through Christ’s vision of the open table.
His address to the British Methodist Conference, when elected president for 2000-2001, was about the ‘table for all’, inspired by Jesus Christ. ‘The genius of Jesus was to put food, a meal, at the centre of his community’, he said during the speech.
Today, Inderjit believes there are three priorities — pollution, poverty and plurality — that are ‘facing human beings whichever nation they’re living in’. Making progress on plurality, to live well with others, will make all goals more achievable, he said.
City of Sanctuary
Inderjit was living in Sheffield in 2005 when he held a meeting to invite people to talk about how they were supporting refugees. He pointed out how much bigger the impact would be if they all worked together. ‘They all agreed’, he recalled. ‘These were people of different faiths and different backgrounds. But they all could understand this ancient biblical concept and committed themselves to it.’
In 2007, the Lord Mayor of Sheffield declared it a city of sanctuary. Today, more than 100 cities, towns and villages in the UK are ‘working by that vision of city of sanctuary’, he said. Schools, universities and other organisations have adopted the vision as well.
The presentation of the award will take place on 27 March 2020 in London.
Inderjit was in position as Leader/CEO of Corrymeela from 2011 to 2013. During his tenure as Leader of Corrymeela, Inderjit introduced a number of different initiatives including the development of Belfast as a City of Sanctuary. This ground breaking project encourages people from different ethnicities to work together to make Belfast a more welcoming, open, fair and safe city for all.
Inderjit remains a Member of the Corrymeela Community. On leaving his leadership post, he said, “I have been privileged to serve Corrymeela as leader for three years and I will still stay a Member of the Community, Corrymeela will always stay close to my heart.”