COMMUNITY leaders of the Muslim and Christian faiths united last Thursday to mark the beginning of work to create a Peace Garden at the Muslim Burial Ground.
Invited dignitaries gathered at the Horsell Common site in the company of Imam Dr Syed Naqvi, representing Woking’s Muslim community, and Rev Keith Barry, the Assistant Chaplin at the Royal Military Academy in Sandhurst.
The prayer ceremony allowed attendees to take a tour of the site, which was first established in 1917, before visiting the Shah Jahan Mosque in Maybury, and later Brookwood Military Cemetery, where the 27 soldiers originally buried at the Muslim Burial Ground were interred.
Attendees included The Lord Lieutenant of Surrey, Dame Sarah Goad; Mayor of Woking, Tony Branagan; Under Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Stephen Williams MP; Jonathan Lord MP; Shah Jahan Mosque’s Imam Hashmi; Commandant of Sandhurst, Major General Stuart Skeates CBE; Chairman of Surrey County Council, David Munro; Chairman of the Armed Forces Muslim Association, Mohsin Mughal; Chairman of Horsell Common Preservation Society, David Robins; and Chief Executive of Woking Borough Council, Ray Morgan.
The Islamic-style Peace Garden will feature 27 birch trees representing each serviceman originally buried at the site, a water feature incorporating a memorial stone bearing the names of those once buried there, bold strips of pink and white heather orientated towards Mecca, two stone ceremonial prayer mats, and benches for quiet contemplation.
Speaking about the project, Mr Williams said: “Peace gardens bring communities together to plan, work and care for a common space which can be enjoyed by all.
“The Woking Peace Garden will allow this community to reflect on the sacrifice of so many during the First World War and to remember the brave men who came from across the world to fight for our freedom.
“Over the next four years we will continue to mark the contribution of all those who fought for Britain 100 years ago and I hope this garden will allow everyone in the local community to come together and learn about our shared history together.”
Council Leader John Kingsbury explained that the service marked the beginning of the final phase of work in the reinstatement of the important heritage site. He added: “Woking is a multicultural borough and, by working in partnership with Horsell Common Preservation Society, we have managed to secure this important heritage site for the benefit of future generations.”
Since works commenced in August 2013, the exterior wall brickwork, Portland stone capping, and entrance Chatrii adorned with a golden finial in the form of a lotus flower have been restored to their original state.