A Cry for Peace

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On the 8th June I attended  an exciting Christian Muslim Forum event which was entitled, "A Cry for Peace".

Julian Bond, Director of the Christian Muslim Forum (2006-2014), chaired the session involving a conversation between Reverend Michaela Youngson, Chair of the London District of the Methodist Church, and Sheikh Dr Mohammed Ali Shomali, Director of the Islamic Centre England.

They discussed such questions as:

How can we help each other build bridges between faiths?

What are you doing to build bridges with people of other faiths?

Dr Shomali explained how he has been involved actively in interfaith since 1997. He has done his best firstly exploring the real world of other faiths knowing other faiths especially Christianity. He spent days training clergy in monasteries and learned about Christianity as it is believed and practised by Christians. He advises his students to have face to face encounters takes people from seminaries to visit other places of worship. Dr Shomali said, ”We are more sensitive to differences rather commonalities. We need to deliberately do things to note commonalities that are hidden by differences. We share so much with the Abrahamic faiths that we are like one family.”

Reverend Michaela Youngson encountered people in the Quaker centre in Selly Oak as a teenager walking into a room was like seeing people on different planets but seeing everyone has the same hearts. Reverend Michaela noted how busy people’s lives were, but that we needed to make time to engage wholeheartedly with others: we should not do anything together that we don’t do apart.

We also heard about the Street Pastors initiative: getting a group of people on the streets, addressing issues of the quality of relationships: What can we do together organically rather than forcing them together?

Dr Shomali thought about the ways people in a faith community can help each other. If we don’t do any concrete projects together there are other communities that feel responsible for humankind. In London or Western countries passing a Church or a Church school gives you strength.

Dr Shomali chose Heythrope college to work with because he felt at home. Dr Shomali said, ”Our very existence is a great support for us: what we can do together is to share our concerns, e.g., family life is at risk. Sharing our concerns means that sometimes we can avoid repeating mistakes.

Reverend Michaela Youngson exclaimed, “How the world perceives the faith is important! She regretted the reduction of religion specialists at the BBC and argued that we should not be shy about the good news stories: joined up coverage may be picked up if we work together.

 

Dr Shomali agreed, saying that we need more time to consider how we work with the media. We are partly to blame. We should be equipped and skilful: a good topic for further discussion. Unfortunately the only way most news media can survive is through advertisements and news about bad things: wars and conflicts may add to their viewers. “There are so many millions of Christians and Muslims living together peacefully and Sunnis and Shi’as living together peacefully”, he said, but this was rarely reported.

Aliya Azam

 

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