Archive for the ‘Archived’ Category

Muslims and Christians in West Africa

A surprise from Sierra Leone

It comes as a surprise to attend a big meeting of the Council Churches in Sierra Leone about health care and to find more Muslim than Christian leaders there.  The warmth of the relations between the two groups was palpable and the fact that the Christian Health Association represented Muslim health workers and hospitals in relations to the government was not considered worthy of comment.



One of the participants on learning that I had spent several years in the north of Nigeria expressed his incomprehension at the tension between Muslims and Christians in the north of Nigeria.  “I just don’t get it”, he said.  And the rest of the group heartily agreed that they couldn’t understand it either.  My attempts to explain didn’t really help.

What is it that makes Sierra Leone, with large Christian and Muslim communities, such an exemplary for inter-faith relations?  The size of the country might have something to do with it. Tiny Gambia has similarly warm relations; the Christians are in a small minority though Christian schools are very popular with Muslim parents.  In Sierra Leone, with a population of only a little over 5 million people, everyone seems to know everyone else and the first thing they will clock is not religious identity but which part of the country you come from.  But family life is still very strong and religion is not unimportant as a part of identity. National identity matters more.

This is partly the product of a dreadful civil war that lasted until 2002. Everyone has stories to tell of the terrible depredations of the youth militias and the suffering that brought the country to near total destitution.  It was religious leaders, Muslim and Christian, working through an inter-religious body that took the first steps at mediation between government and rebel armies, often showing great courage in travelling and risking encounters with unreliable forces.  This collaboration in the living hell of a civil war did much to bond Muslims and Christian to each other. It was British forces who finally brought the civil war to an end but not for want of their trying. The desire to rebuild the country was the next bond to be forged and it remains strong today.

One of the characteristics of Christian-Muslim relations in West Africa is that no-one has much time to talk about theology and sacred texts. The magnitude of the problems confronting their countries is too great.  It is a dialogue of life and action, “hands to hearts to heads”, working together, building and sustaining friendships and learning to respect each other.  We have a lot to learn from Sierra Leone in Europe.

Ian Linden

Not Enough Peace?

Quakerism – Peace, Equality, Simplicity and Truth


Not Enough Peace?

This week is Quaker Peace Week, I went to the Quaker Meeting House in Leicester last night (6 October 2010) for a taste of peace with two Peaceworkers. One was my former colleague, Daniel Edge, who left the Forum last month having completed his 12 months with us. Despite this he is currently on a national tour of Meeting Houses sharing his experiences of being a Peaceworker and working for the Christian Muslim Forum.

The evening began with an introduction to the core values of Quakerism – Peace, Equality, Simplicity and Truth – hopefully values at the heart of both Christianity and Islam. And these moving words, ‘love is at the heart of existence, all are equal before God’, again with resonances in both faiths.

Daniel told us of his journey that has included both Quakerism and Islam, from his first encounter with an elderly Quaker relative who recited al-Fatihah (the opening chapter of the Qur’an) to him and his wife on hearing of their conversion to Islam to bursting the seams of the Hertford Friends Meeting House when the local Muslim community were offered a space for prayer. He also shared how he was inspired by the words of George Fox, ‘appreciate that doubt and questioning can lead to spiritual growth; take time to learn about the experiences of others.’ Through this comes ‘a greater awareness of the light that is in us all.’

He shared his experience of leading our Safe Spaces programme, some of the highlights were:

Chris Walker one of the new intake of Peaceworkers told us about his placement with the ‘Alternatives to Violence Project’ which helps people to deal with conflict without resorting to violence. He shared the truly disturbing statistics that the UK has twice as much interpersonal violence as the global average and that 27% of women have been victims of domestic violence.

Questions and Comments

Julian Bond
Christian Muslim Forum

Visit to St John the Evangelist, Brixton

An educational visit to St John the Evangelist, Brixton


St John the Evangelist, Brixton

Thursday morning towards the end of the summer holidays and what a wet day it was. Julian, Daniel and I visited St John the Evangelist Church in Brixton to talk to children and young people of various ages about the Islamic faith. Upon arrival, we noticed that the parish had constructed a large tent outside the church to accommodate the carers and children who were playing outside. We were kindly greeted by Revd Rosemarie who shepherded all the young people into the tent and seated them at tables which were each assigned a continent.

Julian began the event by introducing himself and explaining briefly the work and goals of the forum, followed by Daniel who gave an insight into his work in the forum alongside his beliefs and likewise I introduced myself and stated my beliefs and work within the forum.

Julian began a dialogue between himself and Daniel by asking Daniel an array of questions about Islam. Julian often emphasised his Christian beliefs prior to asking about Islam due to the fact that the school was a Christian school. Daniel responded by giving a detailed answer often followed by a run-up question by Julian.

Prior to the dialogue initiating, Rosemarie had told the children to pay careful attention to the answers as they would later be taking a quiz to determine which table (continent) paid the closest attention on the topic of Islam.

After the 20 minute dialogue between Julian and Daniel, the floor was open to questions. Many students raised their hands, keen to get answers to questions they had thought of during the dialogue. Many of the girls were keen to have answers about the issue of burqas and hijabs, wanting to know if they are compulsory within Islam or optional. After the cluster of questions, the children were given a booklet of questions which they had to answer within their assigned group.

After writing down their answers, Rosemarie began giving the correct answers and reviewing answers from the various groups. After taking the Islamic test, the children were given a Christianity test. Some children were accused of cheating but these hilarious issues simply added to the festive mood.

Overall, the visit was enjoyable and it was great to interact with the children not only on an educational level but also on a religious and social level. I trust we destroyed many stereotypes (if any) that the young people had in their minds and hearts regarding Islam and I hope that our visit to educate children and young people will be the first of many.

Hussain Bapulah
Christian Muslim Forum

WOMEN of faith gathering in Birmingham

Christian and Muslim together in the Springfield Centre

On 8th March around 60 Christian and Muslim women came together in the Springfield Centre, Birmingham, to celebrate International Women’s Day. The aim for the event was to form and build relationships as well as deepen understanding between women of the two faiths. The aspect of faith created a great interest in the event and, if the venue had been bigger we would have had many more women assembled! The evening started with refreshments, allowing the guests time to view a display representing Christian and Muslim faith and culture, created specifically for the evening.



This was very well received and created much conversation which greatly aided the mingling process.  The speakers Rehanah Sadiq and Pauline Anderson then set the tone for the rest of the evening by sharing personally and passionately about their faith. Rehanah, a hospital chaplain, spoke about her experience growing up in Sheffield in the 1980’s. She shared her personal story of exploring her Muslim identity and discovering God in prayer. Pauline, a counsellor and consultant, testified of a living and personal God who helped her through many difficulties in life and who inspires her to work as a Christian for the community.
Discussions continued in small groups as participants shared more about their own faith and life experiences.




Even at the end of the event many women stayed behind, still enjoying the atmosphere and conversing with each other, confirming it was indeed an inspirational and enjoyable evening. When asked to describe the evening some key words participants used were respect, understanding, sharing, laughter and friendship. Many expressed the hope that more meetings like this would follow, exploring topics such as:
Family values, Understanding teachings of Bible/Quran, sharing life/faith experiences, testimonies/personal stories and helping the community.
The grant given by the Christian Muslim forum helped to make it a special evening.

Mr Shahbaz Bhatti visits the UK

Pakistani Federal Minister for Minorities visits UK

Written by Wilson Chowdhry
In Alex’s absence, I attended the Christian Muslim Forum conference held at St George the Martyr Church , Bermondsey London yesterday afternoon.  The event was well organised and had a small but important audience including members of Christian Solidarity Worldwide, the Bishop of Southwark, Romail Gulzar and Pukaar News, John Bosco, Reverend Rana Youab Khan and many esteemed others, including senior figures from the UK Muslim community.
The meeting was a chance for those concerned about the persecution of minority faiths and the effects of the recent inundation – to get some feedback from the Federal Minister Shahbaz Bhatti and to pose questions to him.
Shahbaz Bhatti talked much about the introduction of a people engagement scheme that involves frequent meetings with leaders and lay people from all faiths in Pakistan.  He described how he believed that this would herald a new age of dialogue and cultural transformation in Pakistan – if given time to take effect.
He also talked of amendments to be made to the Blasphemy Law of Pakistan that will eventually see the introduction of penalties to those who are found abusing the act for personal benefit.  This would involve penalties to groups or agencies that stirred up hatred against communities – such as rogue or fanatical religious leaders and their establishments.

Mr Shahbaz Bhatti alongside Bishop Dr Richard Cheetham and other Pakistani Christian Brethren
Many questioned the veracity of the worth of such schemes as many had heard the same previously.  Moreover, I specifically asked the Federal Minister, to explain how he would ensure that the authorities involved in the process of evaluating and investigating any blasphemy allegations would be free from corruption.  I suggested that the police and other agencies are prone to corruption due to low levels of pay
incommensurate with better pay levels for Taliban insurgents!  Moreover, if better pay levels were to be administered the government of Pakistan would have to introduce a fairer tax system and ensure that monies due were collected.

Mr Wilson Chowdhry with Mr Julian Bond (Director of The Christian Muslim Forum)

I also queried the need for a Blasphemy Law considering that a lead Muslim had stated that the law itself is un-islamic (it seemed a ubiquitous theme that all faiths attending the meeting were pro-abrogation of the Blasphemy Law), however, if the government was reticent to remove the Law should it not provide universal protection to all faiths and prophets.  In such format with the threat of counter-litigation, we should surely see a sharp reduction in the propensity for abuse.

Finally, I asked why it was necessary to highlight an individual’s faith on their passports and identity documents.  This act alone highlights the extent of prejudice in Pakistan and would be an easy matter to resolve without any significant cost or difficulty.  People would simply have the choice to purchase new passports without the discriminatory text – if holding an old standard type.

Gathering of Scholars of the Abrahamic Faiths

Meeting of representatives of the Abrahamic faiths

The Islamic Centre of England convened an urgent meeting of representatives of the Abrahamic faiths (Islam, Christianity and Judaism) in order to condemn any disrespect and desecration of the Quran, the Islamic holy book.

A group of leaders and experts, from the Abrahamic religions, met on the 21st September at the Islamic Centre of England in order to express disgust and outrage towards the insulting and desecration of the Holy Quran which took place in America on 11th of September. They also discussed ways for an extended cooperation in order to protect common interests shared by followers of monotheistic religions.

The meeting which was aimed to approve a 10-point to “Safeguard our Common Values and Communities”…resolution, started with the recitation from the Holy Qur’an. Hujjatul-Islam wal Muslemin Moezi director of the Islamic Centre of England and representative of Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei in the UK, gave a warm welcome to the participants. In his address, he described the despicable insult to the Holy Qur’an as: “a conspiracy planned by the agents of international Zionism intent to create tension between Christians and Muslims by insulting the sanctities of Muslims, trying to incite their emotions with an increase in Islamophobia”. The head of Islamic Centre of England described the incident of the burning of the Qur’an as one in a long list of orchestrated attempts via films, cartoons and other media to undermine the sacredness of the heavenly religions and to belittle them to the extent that ordinary people would lose their interest in them.

Hujjatul-Islam wal Muslemin Moezi mentioned that despite the conspiracies of the enemies of Islam and the occupation of various Muslim countries by global arrogance, Muslims have come closer together showing more and more resentment against occupations especially by the Zionist regime in Palestine. He underlined the fact that Muslims, not only in the West, but throughout the world have a very good relationship with the follower of Abrahamic religions. He also hoped that meeting such as this, would expand and increase the peaceful cooperation among the followers of Abrahamic faiths in an effort to neutralize conspirators’ intent to create division in society.

The other participants also expressed their views regarding the need to protect moral values, common interests and the sacred celestial religions against the hatred and possible repetition of action such as the burning of the Qur’an.

The following is the resolution signed by all participants who in terms committed themselves to increase the number of signatories by introducing it to like-minded individuals.

The full text of the 10 point resolution as follows: Urgent Gathering of Scholars of the Abrahamic Faiths
“A Resolution to Safeguard
Our Common Values and Communities”
Tuesday 21st September 2010

1) We, scholars of the Abrahamic faiths and independent thinkers believe in our own belief systems as individuals and will stand united to uphold our common values for the common good; and

2) Although each faith upholds its own creed, beliefs and rituals, nevertheless, interfaith co-operation is vital in the field of humanitarian and human relationships issues. Indeed, it is a basic tenet of divine religious teachings to treat ones fellow man with the utmost compassion and consideration; and

3) Inherent in the compassionate treatment of ones fellow man, is the essential requirement at all times to ensure that ones words and actions in no way harm, hurt, insult or embarrass other individuals or groups within society. This requirement in turn includes the need to show complete respect for any matter held in esteem by them; and

4) Whereas, disrespect shown to religion is on the rise which contributes to a greater degree of insecurity and sense of danger by members of religious groups that can be distinguished by their dress or place of association; and

5) In the light of the above, we wish to express our rejection at the statements made by certain individuals and groups implying intention to burn copies of the Qur’an. Such flagrant insults can only incite ill feeling and strife between the groups within society instead of enhancing goodwill and peace, which should be the aim of all justice loving people; and

6) Whereas, such behaviour is discrimination against men or harassment of them because of their race, colour, condition of life, or religion; and

7) Whereas, the desecration of the places of worship and graves of religious groups have already been illegal as hate crimes and that the desecration of the books held holy by a religion is considered more seriously than the previously mentioned acts; and

8) We, on our part, are responsible to work and be concerned for the common good, towards preventing the spread of such incendiary kind of behaviour in our communities, which is incompatible with the principles of mutual coexistence and cohesion; therefore, be it

9) Resolved, that the participants representing the various religious groups in this roundtable gathering of scholars of the Abrahamic Faiths encourage its members to condemn all activity that insults all things held holy by the followers of any religion, in particular, the recent act of burning the Qur’an.

10) May we merit the time when the glory of the Almighty will be revealed over the whole universe and all mankind will be at peace with each other.

Good News for Eid

Giving Thanks at the end of Ramadhan

Eid, the feast at the end of Ramadhan, the Muslim month of fasting is a day of good news, the fast has been completed, a month of repentance has come to its conclusion, the whole of the Qur’an has been recited and the feast begins. It is often said that Eid is the Muslim equivalent of Christmas.
This Eid, 10 September 2010, the day before the 9th anniversary of 9/11 is a day of good news for another reason. Like many people travelling to work this morning I picked up the Metro (free UK newspaper) and read ‘Pastor cancels Koran bonfire after protests’. An answer to prayer just as I was preparing to load our statement about this onto the Christian Muslim Forum website. BBC news report.
Eid Mubarak!
Extracts from recent statements:
‘We fully endorse the Archbishop of Canterbury’s insistence that there is no place in our traditions for violent response.  The work of building up good understanding between Christians and Muslims remains as vital as ever.’  The Rt Revd Dr Richard Cheetham, Imam Dr Musharraf Hussain, OBE, DL, Co-Chairs, Christian Muslim Forum
The Archbishop of Canterbury, ‘At the present time our religious communities face many challenges and many provocations. In this country there are those who speak maliciously about religion in general and often against Islam in particular; demonstrations in many of our cities are intended to provoke; and in other parts of the world the threat to desecrate scriptures is deeply deplorable and to be strongly condemned by all people. These are challenges that we must respond to with a consistent message: that we oppose collectively all such provocations and insist that there is no place in our traditions for violent response. In solidarity with each other we will resist all attempts to induce violence by a constant message of peacefulness and reconciliation.’
Revd. Canon John Hall, Director of the St Philip’s Centre Leicester said, ‘The plan to burn the Holy Qur’an is a violation of our interfaith principles. As a Christian who is deeply involved in interfaith, I condemn this deplorable act. Christians and Muslims have a very strong joint track record of living and working together. Our scriptures share much in common.
Suleman Nagdi MBE DL of the Leicester Federation of Muslim Organisations added, ‘The burning of any religious scripture is a degrading act which all of us must speak out against. I have worked with Christians for a very long time and I know that they are very angry with this stunt. As Muslims it is part of our faith that we revere and respect all holy scriptures particularly the Torah, Psalms of David and the Hebrew Bible. I urge Muslims to act in the spirit of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and to show their disapproval through peaceful means. We can do this by continuing to work alongside our Christian cousins so that collectively we can overcome bigotry and prejudice.’
On behalf of the Christian Muslim Forum I hope that those who have held a copy of the Qur’an recently will take the time to learn more about Islam and find out that it does not condone terrorism, suicide bombing and enmity with people of other faiths.
Other messages
Friendship letter from Christians and Muslims at Lambeth Palace
Christian Muslim Forum’s Ethical Witness guidelines
Christian Muslim Forum’s Christmas statement
Julian Bond
Christian Muslim Forum

Bradford Women for Peace Protest 28 August 2010

Bradford Women for Peace was set up in August 2010 in the lead up to the proposed EDL march in Bradford.  Following confirmation that the English Defence League will be holding a static protest in Bradford,  women from across the city have come together to send a clear message of peace.

Wahida Shaffi, spokesperson for Bradford Women for Peace (and a founder member of the Christian Muslim Forum) believes the initiative is unique as it draws together women from across Bradford’s diverse communities who have expressed a genuine desire to stand together in solidarity and support.

“The EDL are calling the Bradford demonstration “The Big One” and the fact that they are coming to our city during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan with a clear view to cause trouble is a calculated attempt on their part to inflame racial and religious tensions in our city.  As mothers, sisters, daughters, partners and wives we want to send the clearest message to the EDL that we will not allow a far-right extremist organisation intent on fanning the flames of racial and religious intolerance to create a breach between Bradfordians. By coming together and bridging our age, racial, religious and cultural differences we want to send out a positive message of peace and unity that is an antidote to the EDL message of hate.”

Bradford Women for Peace are organizing a series of events in the run-up to the EDL event. On Friday, the 27th of August, they will be in the city centre distributing peace ribbons and inviting women to join them in spreading the message across the city.  Accordingto Liz Firth, the group’s co-spokesperson, the women involved in the initiative have adopted the colour green to symbolize hope, renewal, nurturing and peace.

“By owning the colour green we are sending the strongest possible message to the EDL that we reject their anti-Islam message and that Muslims are an integral part of the Bradford community and we intend to stand alongside our Muslim sisters.”

In order to convey our message of non-violence, Bradford Women for Peace have organised an event called Voices for Peace. The group are inviting women from across Bradford to join them in creating a Web of Solidarity to highlight our essential connectedness with each other as part of the larger Bradford family. The EDL gathering threatens to undermine the resilience that the City has builtup since 2001. By bringing women together in solidarity the group wants to invest in a peaceful Bradford for the future.

Bradford Women for Peace will be meeting at Ivegate, (opposite Centenary Square) Bradford City Centre on Friday, 27th from 11 – 1pm and they are inviting women from across Bradford to join them in creating a web of solidarity and posting their messages of unity and solidarity on the Tree of Peace.

The BWFP will continue the theme of peace, unity and solidarity on Saturday 28th of August. For further information please contact Wahida Shaffi on 07983 646096 or Liz Firth on 07988 966097

Women are encouraged to wear a green item of clothing to express their support.

For Press and Media interviews and information contact: Wahida Shaffi 07983 646096 or Liz Firth on 07988 966097

British Social Attitudes

The Christian Muslim Forum organised an important workshop at King’s College London in May 2010. The focus of the workshop was a presentation by Professor David Voas from Manchester University of his research on religious attitudes in a number of countries including Britain.  The British component derived from the British Social Attitudes Survey, Britain’s leading annual survey on public attitudes to a wide range of issues.  The most recent report was published in January 2010.  The survey included a number of questions on religion and Professor Voas analysed and interpreted the data.  Two academics, Professor Humayun Ansari, OBE, of Royal Holloway College and Professor Richard Burridge, Dean of King’s College London, and two journalists, Ruth Gledhill of The Times and Navid Akhtar of Gazelle Media, responded to Professor Voas.  An invited audience of forty contributed further comments.  The Right Reverend Richard Cheetham, Acting Bishop of Southwark and Chair of the Christian Muslim Forum, chaired the workshop.

Professor Voas described his findings as ‘uncomfortable’ but was able to say at the end of the day that something good was possible from his research.  The findings are ‘uncomfortable’ because they suggest that a significant minority of British people is specifically negative about Muslims.  This led to media headlines in The Sunday Telegraph and the Daily Mail that Professor Voas described as ‘very misleading’.  In the course of the workshop, it became very clear that the reality represented by the research is a great deal more complex than indicated by the headline, ‘Britons are suspicious towards Muslims’.  Three factors, in particular, were highlighted:

  • the context of social attitudes;
  • the survey methodology;
  • the role of the media in transmitting research findings.

Context is immensely important and relevant in different ways – when, where, why people hold the attitudes they do.  Richard Cheetham quoted the chapter introduction, where Professor Voas writes that the wider context of the research is that ‘religion is a source of perplexity to the British… after a long history of religious turmoil and mistrust … tolerance is the great commandment of the modern age’ (p.65).  The survey findings are that 43% of the British population says they have ‘no religion’ (Table 4.1) and 62% never attend religious services (Table 4.4).  52% agree that ‘Britain is deeply divided along religious lines’ (p.76).   Attitudes to Muslims are more negative than they are to other religious groups, although nearer the attitudes expressed about ‘deeply religious’ people.  Context was relevant in the finding that lack of educational qualifications is associated with more negative attitudes and towards diversity in general.  Questions were raised as to how far ‘religion’ was a proxy for other social variables, notably ethnicity and culture, whether more detailed research would uncover locality differences and how far negative attitudes were related to disadvantage, ‘relative deprivation’ and the latent racism in British society.  The small proportion of Muslims in British society (4% in 2008) means that their views are barely represented in the survey.  The wider social and political context of attitudes is also pertinent.  This not only applies to global political issues, such as the Iraq war, but more locally.  Professor Burridge said, for example, that when he arrived at King’s in 1996, the Muslim community at King’s contained extremist elements which caused some problems whereas now, following a determined effort on his part as Dean together with the leaders of the student Islamic Society, relations in the College are excellent.

Secondly, respondents addressed the survey methodology.  The British Social Attitudes survey is a high quality survey of its kind, based largely on face to face interviews and statistically representative of the British population.  It inevitably suffers from some of the limitations associated with surveys, such as the the way questions are framed, the definitions used and the robustness of the response rate.  Professor Burridge argued that the international comparisons with the USA in the chapter could be misleading because of the different constitutional position given to religion in the two countries.

Thirdly, the general public find out about research findings through the prism of the media.   Professor Ansari pointed out that the headlines relating to Professor Voas’ research focused on the negative findings, following Professor Voas’ ‘key points’ (p.80).  But a different interpretation – and perhaps different headlines – could have focused more on the tolerance and openness uncovered by the survey.  Social research is never entirely objective, and once in the public domain, is a politically useable resource – for good and bad.  Ruth Gledhill, from The Times, identified that ‘bad news’ stories about Islam had dominated the media since the ‘Salman Rushdie affair’ and that public understanding of Islam had been distorted by the actions of a minority.   In her view, the remedy was for journalists to receive news of, and promote the good done in the name of all religions.  Navid Akhtar, from Gazelle Media, and a media adviser to the Christian Muslim Forum, argued that both economics and digital technology were weakening public service broadcasting, and that one, perhaps unanticipated consequence, was that competing ‘narratives’ of Christian-Muslim relationships were increasingly simplistic.  Professor Burridge suggested that the perceived negative attitudes uncovered in the survey were not the same as a perceived threat to social cohesion and that government policies around the prevention of terrorism were a matter of concern because of their alienating effect – a view that has perhaps not been transmitted in the media.

By the end of the day, those present felt both more sober but also more hopeful than they perhaps had during Professor Voas’ presentation.  There was greater awareness that the research could be seen in more than one light, that social attitudes are complex, and that social surveys, however good, are not ‘the last word’ on a particular subject.  The Christian Muslim Forum, for its part, will continue to encourage and stimulate ways in which Muslims and Christians in Britain can together move the issues forward positively and creatively.

Claudine McCreadie, 16 May 2010

Following the workshop, Claudine McCreadie, a volunteer with the Christian Muslim Forum, accessed these Web links and found them useful.

Topic Web site and report
Contextualising Islam in Britain Report
Exploring the roots of BNP support.  Research published in April 2010 Institute for Public Policy Research
The Gallup Co-exist Index 2009, a global study of inter-faith relations Gallup Coexist Index
Immigration, faith and cohesion.  Research on factors affecting community cohesion in three areas in England with significant Muslim populations. JRF Immigration, Faith and Cohesion
The ‘Muslim world’ in British historical imagination.  Inaugural lecture by Professor K. Humayun Ansari, OBE. Royal Holloway, University of London
Who speaks for Islam?  Lecture at the British Academy in March 2010 by Dr Dalia Mogahed, Gallup British Academy

Archbishop hosts encounter between local Christians and Muslims

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, hosted an event at Lambeth Palace which brought together 50 imams and clergy from 25 local areas to encourage and strengthen local interfaith relationships.

The Revd Mark Fisher, Andrew Stunell MP, Bishop Richard Cheetham, The Archbishop of Canterbury and Maulana Shahid Raza

The event was supported by Mr Andrew Stunell, Parliamentary Under-Secretary at the Department of Communities and Local Government who spoke to the participants:

“Across the country, Christians and Muslims are making huge contributions to their communities in countless churches and mosques, charities and community groups. But, because they are often working towards similar goals, there is great potential for them to collaborate more.

“That is what this conference is about – challenging ignorance and building effective, friendly working relationships, not only between clergy and imams but also between their congregations. Inter faith activity is an important component of the Big Society we want to build, in which people work together for the common good and to tackle shared problems.”

The programme sought to celebrate and publicise the fruitful work done by these local dialogue groups, which are run by both mosques and churches in the local areas as well as in prison and hospital chaplaincies.

One example of the practical outworking of this is the Springfield Centre in Birmingham, a children’s centre that serves both mosque and parish church, as well as the rest of the community. The centre provides holistic support for children’s development and support to families with young children, as well as helping to foster local interfaith engagement.

The event, organised by the Christian Muslim Forum, provided an opportunity for many men and women from local churches and mosques to share their experiences of working with each other, and explore areas where they can work together locally on issues of shared concern.

The Christian Muslim Forum has brought together over 200 local leaders of both faiths since 2006 and will run the event in partnership with the Mosques and Imams National Advisory Board (MINAB) and Churches Together in England (CTE). Participants have drafted a letter to go out to churches and mosques, encouraging leadership and congregations to meet and learn from each other.