Abrahamic Reunion Presents at Grendon Therapeutic Prison in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, England

In April 2016, Anna Less and Ghassan Manasra came to England and spoke at a Quaker meeting. One of the attending Quaker ministers there, Yvonne Dixon was so moved by their talk that she subsequently arranged for David Less, Ghassan and Anna to speak at Grendon Prison where she is a chaplain.

Grendon Prison is the United Kingdom‘s only therapeutic prison community for the treatment of serious sex offenders and violent criminals.

Below are some excerpts from an article about typical inmates at Grendon Prison that we read to prepare ourselves for our experience there. The article is about “Adam” and “Eddie (not their real names).”

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“Feedback” HMP Grendon Magazine – Summer Issue 2017

Opening Hearts at Springhill Prison

November 7:  Today Abrahamic Reunion’s UK tour had a presentation at Springhill Prison in Buckinghamshire, England.

Abrahamic Reunion Peacemakers Sheikh Ghassan Manasra (Director), Rabbi Mordechai Zeller (a former resident of Israel serving as the current Rabbi for Cambridge University, and a trustee for the Abrahamic Reunion in the UK), and I, Reverend Cherag Anna Less PhD, (AR Executive Director) together with Abrahamic Reunion youth leader, Zaynab Manasra, and our UK Abrahamic Reunion team, Michael and Amanda Kenton, and Yvonne Dixon the Quaker Chaplain at Springhill Prison, met to offer a presentation to approximately 80 inmates, staff members and chaplains at Springhill Prison.

No photos were allowed in the prison, however this photo was taken beforehand of everyone going (minus Sheikh Ghassan who is taking this picture.)

Yvonne introduced us to the audience and spoke about Springhill’s history, which served as the training centre for British Special Forces during World War II. She explained that the gymnasium where we were giving our presentation was built by the prisoners and named after Britain’s first Muslim war heroine, Noor-un-Nisa Inayat Khan.

Although Springhill Prison shares the same grounds as Grendon Prison, where the Abrahamic Reunion had presented last year, Springhill has a very different population from that of Grendon Prison, which offers a therapeutic program for England’s most dangerous and violent criminals.

Springhill is an open prison that supports the needs of about 335 long-term prisoners who are in the last few years of their sentence. At Springhill, prisoners train and prepare for their release, and participate in a resettlement program that allows them to work in jobs outside of the prison during daylight hours, and return to live in the prison when they are not working.

The majority of residents in our audience were Muslims and surprisingly for us, there were a number of Palestinians.

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An Interfaith Service at Springhill Prison

Thanks to the hard work of Yvonne Dixon, Latifa Shahab Laker and Gulrukh Patel, an inspired Interfaith Service was held at Springhill Prison on October 25th 2012. The service took place in conjunction with the unveiling of a new Gym built entirely by the prisoners and dedicated to Noor Inayat Khan in recognition of her heroic deeds during World War Two.

Springhill was the training centre for the Special Operations Executive during the war and where all of Noor’s radio transmissions from occupied Paris, would have been received. In 1953 Springhill became the first open prison in the UK and is now a resettlement prison where detainees are prepared for re-entry into society. Yvonne is acting chaplain there and initiated talks with the Governor about offering an Interfaith Service called a Universal Worship Service in honour of Noor. During preliminary discussions he came up with the idea of dedicating the gym as a tribute to her. Naturally we were all delighted that the prison had taken Noor’s story into its heart.

The service was conducted in the presence of prisoners, guests and members of the UK Sufi Order. Guests and prisoners from different faiths were invited to participate by reciting scriptures from their respective traditions. One of the prisoners also made an offering from Noor’s Jataka Tales.

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