Victoria Wasteney was suspended by the NHS Photo: Warren Allott / The Telegraph
It was intended, she says, as a simple but heartfelt gesture of comfort and support for a troubled colleague.
Victoria Wasteney put her hand on her friend’s knee and, asking if she could pray for her, said simply: “God, I trust You will bring peace and You will bring healing.”
So when Miss Wasteney was later suspended by the NHS from her position as a senior occupational health therapist for having prayed with her colleague, she was left distraught and angry.
The problem appeared to be that Miss Wasteney is a Christian and her colleague was Muslim. And her employer – a health authority in one of Britain’s most ethnically mixed areas – deemed her behaviour to be a case of harassment and bullying.
Miss Wasteney, 37, from Buckhurst Hill, Essex, had earlier lent the colleague – who was going through health problems and personal issues at home – a book about a Muslim woman who converts to Christianity, and also invited her to a number of events organised by her church, including a community sports day and an anti-human trafficking meeting…
…Miss Wasteney said: “I’m not a hard-line evangelical. I’m not anti-Muslim. I believe in freedom of speech, but I’ve always believed we should be sensitive to one another’s beliefs and feelings.”
Indeed, as part of her job at the John Howard Centre, a secure mental hospital in Homerton, east London, Miss Wasteney was concerned with patients’ spiritual well being and helped organise a number of faith activities, including Eid, Diwali and Christmas, as well as ethnic minority events such as Black History Month. There were also regular Friday prayers organised for Muslim patients and staff…