Christian Muslim Forum: Statement by the Chair and Vice-Chair

The Christian Muslim Forum launched in January 2006, realising a strategic initiative, begun by the Archbishop of Canterbury in 2001, considering the advisability of a bilateral forum bringing together in one body the range of Christian Churches and Muslim traditions in England.

The Process of Formation
An extensive ‘listening exercise’ was carried out over a period of two years by an eminent group of Muslims and Christian representatives appointed by the Archbishop in consultation with Muslim leadership. The consultations extended across the Muslim and Christian communities nationally and regionally, and also included the other main faith communities and government bodies. The group’s conclusion was clear: that a forum whose fundamental purpose is ‘to help Christians and Muslims to live and work together creatively and harmoniously in our plural society’, would be beneficial to the common good. In 2004 a successor body, the Implementation Group, also equally composed of representatives from the Christian and Muslim communities, was formed to take forward the recommendations, raise the necessary finance, and set in place the structures and arrangements that would enable a Forum to come into being.

President-Members of the Forum
The process of raising the initial funding and agreeing the make-up of the Forum is now nearing completion, with four Muslim and four Christian Leaders appointed as Presidents from a range of traditions within each Faith community.

The Christian Presidents were nominated by the four Presidents of Churches Together in England to represent the four main strands of the Church. They are The Revd Esme Beswick (Joint Council of Anglo Caribbean Churches), the Rt Revd Michael Evans (Roman Catholic Bishop of East Anglia), the Rt Revd David Gillett (Anglican Bishop of Bolton), and Revd. Dr. Nicholas Wood (Baptist Scholar, Regent’s Park College, Oxford).

The Muslim Presidents represent the wide range of Islam in this country - Sunni and Shia, as well as Sufi, Deobandi and Barelwi traditions. They are Dr Mohammad Saeed Bahmanpour (Islamic College for Advanced Studies, London), Dr Musharraf Hussain (Karimia Institute, Nottingham), Dr Khalil Ahmed Kazi (Rauf Trust, Yorkshire), and Dr Ataullah Siddiqui (Islamic Foundation, Leicester).

The Presidents held a preliminary meeting and appointed Bishop David Gillett as the Chair and Dr Ataullah Siddiqui as the Vice Chair of the Forum.

Specialist Members and Scholar-Consultants
The twelve remaining members of the Forum, six pairs of Specialist members, also represent a wide range of traditions from within both communities. The Forum, in total, is made of up 10 Christians and 10 Muslims, 7 of whom are women. The twelve specialists cover the following areas of expertise: Community and Public Affairs; Youth; Education; Media; Family; International Affairs. Each specialist pairing will gather around them a wider group of experts in their field as the work of the Forum develops in the early months of its existence.

Six Scholar Consultants, three from each Faith have also been appointed to support the theological and scholarly work of the Forum. The names of the specialists and the scholar consultants were announced at the formal launch of the Forum on 24th January 2006 at a Reception at Lambeth Palace given by the Archbishop of Canterbury as the Forum’s Founding Patron.

Appointment of Staff
The process of appointing staff for the Forum has begun. Advertisements for the first Director were widely placed in Christian, Muslim and secular media and there was a strong field of applicants. This appointment was announced at the launch of the Forum.

Strategic Benefits of the Forum
We believe the Forum will bring strategic benefits to the current state of inter faith relationships by:
Adding a carefully constructed national bilateral component to the range of multi faith organisations and thus enable issues and concerns specific to the two largest faith communities to be addressed directly and in the detail that is required.

  • Providing a powerful new component to the range of instruments which add to the cohesiveness of society, representing a major social capital investment. Christian and Muslim communities consist of a broad agglomeration of different traditions, strands and approaches born out of centuries of historical, cultural and theological development. Having a means to access and listen to these multiple strands, will make a real contribution to cohesive relations between the faith communities and in society more generally.
  • Bringing substantial additional resource to bear on a wide range of complex and important issues, contributing to building the capacity of the two communities in particular and faith communities generally. The range will inevitably be large - from gender issues to global terrorism to the protection of minority rights, and countless others - all benefiting from the Forum providing careful mature reflection. For this reason there will be two residential meetings, as well as other day meetings, during its first year.
  • Being the source of a wide variety of new initiatives and encouragement for existing ones at local, regional, and national levels. The Forum will initially focus on its six areas for each of which the specialist members will be convening groups and activities. These will be informed by Christian and Muslim theological and scholarly reflection, intending to address ways of enhancing relationships between Christians and Muslims - and others.

Aims and Objectives
The objectives of the Forum are to:

  • Weave a web of open, honest and committed personal relationships between Christians and Muslims;
  • Encourage shared reflection on the spiritual, theological, scholarly, ethical and practical values of the two traditions in order to offer resources for citizenship in our society;
  • Build a shared public platform to strengthen Christians and Muslims working together for the common good in partnership with others;
  • Develop channels of communication to help Christians and Muslims together to respond to events which test our relationship.

In all this work we seek to remain faithful to our own commitment as Christians and Muslims while growing in our relationship with each other, understanding of each other’s tradition, and our ability to work together for the good of our communities and society as a whole.

The Right Revd David Gillett (Chair) Dr Ataullah Siddiqui (Vice-Chair)

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