The sun shone and the birds sang on Saturday 24 June when about 50 Christian and Muslim women and a few men gathered in St Mary’s Chapel, Jesmond to honour Mary the mother of Jesus and to pray for peace.

There was a very friendly atmosphere among those present – about an equal number of Christians and Muslims. We listened respectfully to each other’s readings about Mary and Jesus from the Gospels and the Qur’an, and also to each other’s prayers in praise of God.

Fatima chanted beautifully from the Qur’an, and Christine and Dave Newton led us in three Christian hymns: ‘Be still for the presence of the Lord’, ‘O Mother blest’ and ‘Make me a channel of your peace’.

We had Christian prayers for peace and a very thoughtful piece about peace from Hengameh. Then we all joined together in the universal prayer for peace.

Hengameh and Mary exchanged candles as a sign of peace and invited all present to exchange a sign of peace with those around them. After closing with ‘Make me a channel of your peace’, we made our way to Holy Name hall where we enjoyed some light refreshments and exchanged information about the rosary and the tasbe, sharing faith and friendship.

Kamelia, a Muslim friend from Morpeth emailed me to say that she loved our readings from the Bible and that the last hymn was so moving and apt that it brought tears to her eyes.

When saying goodbye, a Catholic lady from Sunderland urged us to continue holding this annual event and said that she felt it was very important for peace.

We certainly hope to continue holding this event and feel very strongly that it is an important way to build bridges of friendship and understanding.

It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.