James Ellman, 52, the founder of Faith Hope Love Communities (FHLC) in Elsies River, accompanied Berry Behr, the chairperson of the Cape Town Interfaith Initiative, to Jordan where both organisations received the HM King Abdullah II World Interfaith Harmony Week Prize.
The prize was for their collaborative activity called “Love of Neighbour - Our Prayers for Our City”, an activity that took prayers from places of worship to people in troubled areas.
Ellman, who founded his organisation 12 years ago, said: “We run a programme called ‘Inner Peace’. We go to two schools and have around 300 children. All of this is funded by myself,” said Ellman.
The organisation focuses predominantly on areas crippled by crime and high poverty rates.
“What we want is to have the children connect with themselves so that they know what their purpose is. Elsies River is an area with a lot of gangsterism and we try to break down the importance of belonging to a group and that their family is the only group they belong to,” he said.
Ellman, who was raised Catholic, said the importance of kindness and giving back has remained a key lesson at his parish in Elsies River. Ellman and Behr flew to Jordan, courtesy of the Royal Aal al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought, to accept the prize from King Abdullah II.
“It was a wonderful experience. This man was full of holiness. I’ve met many noteworthy figures but I think why this was an even greater experience was because we spoke about many other things,” he said.
Behr said: “It was a profound experience to be visiting ancient sacred sites in a Holy Land during Holy Week. At the prize-giving ceremony, His Majesty was gracious, encouraging and authentic, urging us to continue the work for interfaith harmony which he has made his personal mission and powerful message to the world. We came home determined to do just that.”@MarvinCharles17