Archive for June, 2010

News from the LIFE Project

LIFE (Local Initiative for Faith and the Environment)

LFE is a bridge which brings people together around two of the most vital pillars of peace-building in society today: climate change and inter-faith dialogue.

In September 2009 we launched LIFE as a ‘pilot’ in the borough of Lambeth, building on already existing links between churches, mosques and temples in the area. It emerged as an all-women venture, from an Islamic point of view this simplified things and meant that we could really engage with local Muslim women in an open way. As we started to gather, eat, share views and discover how we can be more engaged, creative and joyful about the environment, we began to see that awareness about the global dilemma begins with the local. The route into this is friendship, and the bumps and delights of building relationships, regardless of differences in opinion, style, background, beliefs.

As LIFE unfolds, we are finding that a holistic response to changes in the earth’s environment and economy provides a common ground for people from different backgrounds to work together to a positive end. It transcends fixed beliefs and renews faith in life itself. LIFE provides intimate, open, creative spaces for women to dialogue about issues and practical application that is fun, inclusive and offers opportunity for sharing skills with time for reflection. We welcome you to LIFE!

Reflection on Hands-to-Gather I, 2 June 2010

It was half term week and our theme was ‘Simple living – A practical workshop exploring the environmental & social benefits of re-use’. We drew closer to the experience of the women who came to participate than we could have imagined: many of our LIFE ladies have up to seven children, often all under the age of 12, who were in tow as it was holiday time. As the hall slowly filled, it was clear – the life of a mother is far from simple! Issues to do with finding appreciation of what we have and how we explore re-use becomes an issue when we are not only responsible for our own waste, but those we bring into the world. Threaded through this jamboree of talking, making, eating and soul-reflecting was that passing on the message of ‘waste matters’ to the next generation is vital.

Children are often known for making exasperating demands on their parents for more ‘stuff’. But they are also most inspiring in their resourcefulness; watch any child in a garden or playground and they will find a game! How can we challenge patterns of wanting and competition and tap into the playful capacity that makes something found into something new and beautiful?

Many thanks to Catherine Bourke (Lambeth’s Waste Development Manager) for sharing ideas about recycling (the fonesforsafety project, uses old mobiles to create hotline phones for women suffering abuse). Also to Hannah Lewis for showing us how to make funky purses out of used tetrapaks. Also to the combination of artists who inspired us to reflect on how ‘waste it’ or ‘remake it’ is a moment-by-moment choice that we make, in deed and in thought. The afternoon finished with some remembering of verses from Christian and Muslim scriptures, showing us that, when faith is planted in our hearts, it is possible for the things that we perceive as waste (our ‘failures’ and misguided choices) to be transformed into something good.

The Hands-to-Gather Programme – July to December 2010

Please note these are women-only events! Each includes a delicious life-giving vegetarian lunch, donations welcome.

Hands-to-Gather 3: Wednesday 21 July 2010: Finding Our Common Ground, with LIFE-maker Tini Brodie & Sue Sheehan, (Lambeth’s Green Community Champions Officer). To include a walk on Tooting Bec Common and visit Hyde Community Farm. After lunch discussion: ‘Faith and Belonging: Wisdom of the Desert (‘no man’s land’) in different spiritual traditions.’ Children welcome – Creche provided.

Details: 10.30 to 14.30 at 32, Emmanuel Road, Balham, SW12 0HF. Getting there: Tube or bus (155 /355) to Balham Station then 15 min walk down Balham Station Road towards Tooting Bec Common. No. 32 is about halfway along. Or: buses 57, 109, 118,133, 159, 417 to Streatham Hill Station. Walk down Sternhold Avenue and take the path diagonally across the Common.

Hands-to-Gather 4: LIFE-out-of town: A 24-hour Retreat, Saturday 31 July – Sunday 1 August
A 24 hour LIFE-giving retreat at The Quadrangle, a beautifully converted barn in Kent, an easy train ride from South London. Starting mid-morning on Saturday and finishing mid-morning on Sunday, we will breathe fresh air, walk, explore ecology, do yoga and eat together in relaxing surroundings. A unique chance to sleep in a dormitory together and share LIFE stories! If you are interested in coming, the cost will be on a donations basis, depending on how much you can afford.

Hands-to-Gather 5: Wednesday 22 September 2010: Food-growing Workshop at Brockwell Park Community Gardens. 10.30 to 14.30. Details to be confirmed.

Hands-to-Gather 6: Wednesday 20 October 2010: Preparing for Winter“ Ecology and Mental Health” an exploration in mindfulness.  How can we keep growing in faith during dark times?
10.30 to 14.30. Details to be confirmed.

Hands-to-Gather end of year Celebration: Celebrating Eid, Advent and sharing the hidden lights of mid-winter. Details to be confirmed.

Contact: Rebecca Brewin, 07896 936625 (Project Coordinator)
or Sadaat Yusuf, 07939 325032 (Muslim Outreach Worker)

Rebecca Brewin
LIFE Project and Christian Muslim Forum

Following in the Footsteps of Abraham

This was a very successful, enjoyable and spiritual event, living up to our expectations and the confidence of the Inlight Trust in providing the funding. Men from across the country, including Wales, converged on St Deiniol’s Library from Birmingham, Brighton, Burnley, Dorking, Leighton Buzzard, London, Manchester, Merthyr Tydfil, Nottingham.and Rochester.

Tony Aylward, a Baptist from Rochester wrote the following account.

Christians Reflections

I went on this retreat with great expectation as I believe God wanted me to be there.  It was entitled ‘In the Footsteps of Abraham’ and my hope was that it would inspire my thinking on male spirituality and also renew my contact with Muslims following my departure from Leicester. It was a small gathering of 13, 6 Christian and 7 Muslims and was led by Symon Hill and Abdullah Trevathan.  We looked at 3 areas:

  • The life of Abraham in the Qur’an and Bible
  • Dealing with conflict
  • Being Male

We shared worship in the form of meditation/reflection using Muslim chants from the Sufi tradition and Christian ones from Taize and Iona.

When we drew up a list of Abraham’s character from our scriptures, we discovered that many of them were the same.  Key ones from both texts which we identified were:

  • Spiritual wayfarer
  • Absolute faith
  • Friend of God

One major difference in respect to Abraham was that in the Muslim tradition all prophets are without sin whereas in the Christian tradition only Jesus is without sin and so the prophets are flawed people.

We spent some time thinking about Abraham the Absurd, defining ‘absurd’ as not normal or ordinary.  As people of faith we are called to be an extraordinary people.  By being together as Christians and Muslims for this retreat we were being absurd.  We were challenged as to whether we had become to cosy in our faith and not therefore taking risks.  Are we going through the motions of faith without it really affecting the way we live our lives?

The conflict resolution sessions were very helpful in enabling us to think about the root causes and not just the reasons people often give for their positions.  We looked at a diagram that required us to think about where we were in relation to personal goals as against relationships when dealing with an issue of conflict.  Although compromise in some cases is the only way we were encouraged to try problem solving the issue to see if there is a better way for the parties involved.  I was not alone in finding how ready as a group we were to accept the very different issues between our faiths.  Perhaps that said more about the participants who were more focused on areas of agreement.

The final session on male identity caused the most discussion as we completed a questionnaire expressing how important certain criteria were to our identity.  What was striking for me was the relative passion that people gave to particular headings.  We considered whether our responses would have been the same had there been a woman present, for which the majority view was that it would.

The question of what are male characteristics is a problem area when it comes to looking at male spirituality.  Draw up a list and there will be people who disagree with you.  I am a firm believer that at times this is because men may not like a particular trait or they believe they do not portray it.  The walk we had on the Saturday afternoon was a wonderful demonstration of a male trait in action.  We had identified of Abraham that he was focused and indicated that this was a male attribute.  On the walk we talked, mainly in pairs but on occasions in single file.  We maintained a brisk pace rarely stopping to take in the creation around us.  We even managed to be blissfully unaware of ‘Private’ notices.  Now that is what I call focused!

Overall it was a great experience of men sharing the journey of faith.  For me the translation of the Muslim chant ‘La ilaha ill’allah’ as ‘There is nothing but God; there is only God’ called me to refocus my life on the things of God.  To daily ask the question ‘what will God do with me today rather than what will I do today?’

Tony Aylward

Muslim Reflections

We were all deeply committed to dialogue since for us it’s a Divine imperative yet we felt that we must also be witnessing the special God-given gift of Islam.

  • There was a commitment to dialogue and a sense of being generous to the Christians and no inner tension in doing so.
  • In the Qur’an God affirms  human diversity and pluralism. All are presented as ‘the family of God’ therefore I as a Muslim must show love and respect to all.
  • Our experiential dialogue involved discussions, zikr, and Muslims praying in jamaat [congregation] helped to build understanding and trust of each other. It was an antidote to the inadequate, misleading or stereotyping images that lead to ignorance and demonising the other.
  • There was genuine sense of friendship, understanding and respect for each other’s beliefs despite it being challenging.
  • There was no attempt by anyone to compromise, dilute or be disingenuous to their faith. We agreed to disagree and accept the difference – yet all showed willingness to understand others’ points of view.
  • The feeling created in encounter was that we can work in partnership with Christians for the common good, peace and social cohesion. As John Wesley said, ‘that though we cannot think alike yet we may love alike, that we may be of one heart though we are not of one opinion’ [from his sermon ‘Catholic Spirit’].

Imam Musharraf Hussain

What Next?

Many thanks to all who took part, the retreat leaders, Tony and Musharraf for their reflections. We would like to hold another retreat and have an invitation to an Islamic retreat centre in Spain. If you are interested in being involved in exploring Christian-Muslim men’s spirituality please get in touch.

We are also organising a women’s retreat for London-based Christian and Muslim women on 31 July/1 August in Kent. Please contact us for more details.

An event for everyone – Friends and Neighbours, 30 June/1 July 2010.

Julian Bond

Condemning Attacks on Places of Worship

Religious Tensions in Pakistan

We recently reported on threats against a Shi’a Muslim leader in Pakistan Dialogue – Waging Peace in Difficult Times and the Anti-Terrorism Fatwa. We take this opportunity to share these press releases.
28 May 2010, MINAB Condemns Attacks on Places of Worship

Reports from Pakistan claim that two centres of worship belonging to the Ahmadi/Qadiani sect in Lahore have been attacked. Even though this sect is not regarded as belonging to the fold of Islam by the majority of Muslims in the world, it is the belief of MINAB that all places of worship should be safe from any such attack, no matter to which faith or group they belong.

The Chair of MINAB, Maulana Shahid Raza, OBE, has condemned the attacks. “It is a human right to be able to worship in peace and security, so any attack on a place of worship is abhorrent,” he said. “It is hoped that such sectarianism does not raise its head in Britain.”
The message from MINAB is that Britain’s mosques should be places of safety for all who attend them, and Muslims must respect all other places where people gather for religious purposes.

The Christian Muslim Forum echoes this message that Christians and Muslims, and their places of worship, should be safe from each other and that people of other religions and those of no faith should all be respected and valued as God’s creations.

The Mosques and Imams National Advisory Board (MINAB) is the representative body of all UK Muslim denominations set up to promote good governance in Mosques and Imam Training Institutions through a process of self regulation. It has over six hundred mosques and training institutions as its members. It is a community led independent body, non sectarian in its outlook, representing the diversity of Islam with no role in matters of theology and is broad based with an accountable system of representation.
Press Release from Allama Inayat Ali Shakir, Chairman Tehrik-e-Akhuwat-e-Islami Pakistan and Interfaith Dialogue Committee
Islamabad: Chairman Tehrik-e-Akhuwat-e-Islami Pakistan and Interfaith Dialogue Committee and prominent Shia scholar Allama Inayat Ali Shakir has strongly condemned the terrorist attacks on the worship places of Ahmadiyyas in Lahore in which hundreds of Ahmadiyyas were killed and several injured and termed it an attempt to destabilize the country and worsen the law and order situation.
He was talking to a delegation of Ulemas of different faiths, who called on him in the central secretariat of Tehrik-e-Akhuwat-e-Islami (T.A.I) Islamabad. Allama Shakir said that Islam is a universal religion and guaranteed the protection of rights of all minorities, therefore the minorities in Pakistan have been given complete rights according to law. “Any religion of the world does not permit to assassinate the innocent people and attacks of worship places of other faiths”, he added and said that terrorists have no religion and enemies of entire humanity.
He said that incidents of terrorism on one hand are an attempt to defame the image of the country, while on other hand its object is to sabotage the efforts made for the promotion of interfaith harmony. Allama Shakir said that it is not only the responsibility of government to curb terrorism and extremism but the Ulemas and religious scholars should also play their active role for the elimination of this menace along with government functionaries.
He maintained that it is the dire need of hour to promote interfaith harmony, peace and religious tolerance in the country. “Government should initiate high-level inquiry to probe into the matter of Lahore blasts and unveil this conspiracy and brought the culprits to book and give them exemplary punishment, who are allegedly involve in this heinous crime” he demanded. Allama Shakir expressed sympathy and solidarity with the bereaved families and prayed for the early recovery of injured.