An Unexpected Exchange in the East End
- Created on Tuesday, 08 April 2014
Freshly back from Jerusalem and the Holy Land one of the Forum’s partners, imam Ajmal Masroor, wrote about churches in London’s East End. Perhaps struck by the contrast with his experience of churches in the Middle East, or the contrast with his own youth, the title of his article is ‘We should revive the East End’s Christian spirit’ . In tune with the zeitgeist, he also mentions Adam Smallbone’s sparsely attended church in the series Rev . It’s rare enough that imams write about churches, even more rare that they make a plea for more vibrancy and larger congregations (though Muslim colleagues have made similar comments at some of our events). However, he also suggests that Christianity has ‘lost its way’. In the experience of most Christians this is not the case, nor is this a view shared by the Christian Muslim Forum. Nevertheless, each challenging, contested and controversial statement is an invitation to dialogue.
East End clergy have not been slow in responding to and challenging Ajmal’s comments, including Revd Alan Green (whose church is opposite our office), the coordinator of the Tower Hamlets Inter Faith Forum . Alan’s letter begins by letting Ajmal know that the church bells can still be heard in Cable Street. Some of the comments address the significant differences between Christianity and Islam (amongst our similarities), others invite Ajmal into the debate/dialogue. You can read the article here
We hope to be facilitating a conversation in the weeks to come.
Director, Christian Muslim Forum
Comment from Mark Hutchings*
I was interested to read your article in The Evening Standard (1/4/14). Interestingly, you're the second Muslim person who has made similar comments about inner city churches in the last couple of weeks. A Muslim friend commented that the church I work at (in Bethnal Green) looks closed during the week even though it is open quite a lot of the week - a food bank runs from here and a night shelter as well as an after school club and youth project.)
I wouldn't agree with you that Christianity has lost the heart and soul of people. The fundamentals of Christianity, namely the Gospel (Good news/Injil of Jesus Christ) and His message to a struggling world provides us with a Living Hope for now and the future and is a coherent message. We are called to a life of serving our community but it is not just about social work. It is living in obedience to Jesus and in proclaiming His message. Followers of Jesus (myself included) see no distinction to be made between our faith and issues of justice. We believe that not only are we hearers of the word (of Jesus) but doers of the word (James in the New Testament).
I am chair of a small youth charity called The Feast that started in Birmingham and now has a presence in Tower Hamlets. It exists to bring Muslim and Christian young people together to be involved in what we refer to as "Faith Encounters" through good youth work. I'd be very happy to talk more with you about this and my work with the Christian Muslim Forum.
I hope we can talk more.
*Mark Hutchings Youth Pastor Bethnal Green Mission Church