Archive for the ‘Christian’ Category

Easter 2019

As Christians here in the UK & across the world celebrate Easter, we pray that the message of hope and joy will bring blessings to all as together we reject violence, hatred and division.

Sri Lanka attacks on churches & hotels

Attacks on Churches and Hotels on Easter Sunday in Sri Lanka Condemned

Imam Qari Asim, Chair of Mosques & Imams National Advisory Board said:

“I strongly condemn the horrific terrorist attack in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday which resulted in 160 innocent people being brutally murdered and hundreds injured.

Our thoughts are with all those who have been affected by the explosions at churches and hotels in Sri Lanka.

The highly coordinated attacks on churches on Easter Sunday demonstrates that there are no boundaries to the depravity of the murderers. Murdering Christian worshippers on Easter Sunday is akin to killing Muslims praying in a Mosque on Eid day, and therefore we can understand the pain and anguish that has been caused to the Christian community of Sri Lanka on a day they consider to be one of their holiest.

In this extremely difficult time for the Christian community across the world, we stand in solidarity with Christians everywhere. An attack on any place of worship is an attack on the way of life of faith communities and therefore an attack on all of us.

These reprehensible acts, committed by those who are driven by hatred, aim to create fear and division in communities. The extremists want to restrict freedom of religion, which is one of the fundamental human values shared globally. We must stand together in solidarity and show that extremists will never succeed.”

Qari Muhammad Asim MBE
Twitter: @QariAsim
Facebook: ImamQariMuhammadAsim

Ethical Guidelines – Questions and Responses

Anonymous Questions

1. Take  point 10 on the Guidelines: Whilst we may feel hurt when someone we know and love chooses to leave our faith, we will respect their decision and will not force them to stay or harass them afterwards. What does this mean?     

Guideline 10 means what it says, we recognize that conversions are taking place between Christianity and Islam and at the human level people should be able to make their decisions/respond to God and not be ill-treated by friends, families and religious communities, event though Christians would rather Christians remained Christians and Muslims rather Muslims remained Muslims. We are aware of the mistreatment (from mild to extreme) of converts from Islam to Christianity and from Christianity to Islam in England and were motivated by these concerns.

2. In Channel Four’s investigative Programme Dispatches, broadcast in Sept 07, about the violence and intimidation facing Muslims who convert to Christianity in Britain, reporter Anthony Barnett met former Muslims who now live under the threat of reprisals from their former communities. Many are still living in fear. He interviewed a family who have been driven out of their home and a convert whose brother was beaten close to death.  Many of the 3,000 Muslims who have converted to Christianity in Britain refused to be interviewed for fear of further persecution.  

Will the Muslims on the Forum now publicly condemn this harassment?  The courageous Muslim leader Sheikh Mogra of the Muslim Council of Britain gave them a lead by publicly stating on the programme “We are British Muslims living in Britain. If a Muslim chooses to leave Islam, we have no right to injure them whatsoever”

Our colleague Shaykh Ibrahim Mogra, one of the Presidents of the Forum, heads up the MCB’s Inter Faith Relations committee and spoke on the Dispatches programme. He was equally clear when speaking at the launch event. We are currently seeking public support for the guidelines from leading Muslims and Christians. We hope that the guidelines will make things easier for those who convert and we will be using the guidelines at our future events and encouraging mosque and church groups to consider them carefully.

3. One of the hadiths [traditions of Muhammad] stipulates the death penalty for apostasy, for example Sahih [Collection of] Bukhari, considered to be a reliable source by most Muslims, says: ‘Whoever changes his religion, execute him.’ There is a significant number of further hadiths which state that the apostate must be killed. Will the Muslims on the Forum publicly state that the hadith which stipulates the death penalty for apostasy does not have any relevance in Britain?

Hadith on apostasy – this hadith is not relevant in the UK because the UK is not an Islamic state. But neither can it be applied in other countries which are Islamic states as its context relates to Islam’s early days where leaving Islam was tantamount to treason. The Qur’an does not stipulate that those who leave Islam should be executed.

4. Bishop of Rochester, Michael Nazir-Ali, whose father converted from Islam told the Channel 4 Investigation mentioned above that many Muslim leaders in Britain have been silent on the issue of apostasy and he implored them to speak out.  Will the Muslims on the Forum now issue a press release speaking out on this issue?

The Muslims (and Christians) of the Christian Muslim Forum have already issued a press release promoting the ethical guidelines. The guidelines, including the statement about converts, have been welcomed in the August/Ramadan 2009 edition of the Muslim magazine emel. We are in the process of seeking sign-up to the guidelines from leading Christians and Muslims.

5. An Opinion Poll in 2007 revealed that 36% of young Muslims in Britain state that Muslim converts to Christianity should be punished by death. Will the Muslims on the Christian Muslim Forum agree to publicly campaign within their communities to change the minds of this 36%?

36% in favour (though a minority) of mistreatment of converts is a disturbing figure. Our guidelines are aimed precisely at challenging Muslim and Christian communities where they do not respect those who have changed their faith. We are working on an open letter promoting the guidelines. As well as potential reservations within the Muslim community we are aware that some Christians have expressed an unwillingness to sign up to the guidelines and that our work involves seeking to persuade people of both faiths. Believers of either faith who are unwilling to sign up are not in a good position to criticize those of the other faith. Above all these guidelines are a basis for further action rather than talking.

Muslim members of the Christian Muslim Forum draw attention to these words from the Common Worddeclaration – ‘As Muslims, we say to Christians that we are not against them and that Islam is not against them – so long as they do not wage war against Muslims on account of  their religion, oppress them and drive them out of their homes.’

And these, ‘If Muslims and Christians are not at peace, the world cannot be at peace. With the terrible weaponry of the modern world; with Muslims and Christians intertwined everywhere as never before, no side can unilaterally win a conflict between more than half of the world’s inhabitants. Thus our common future is at stake. The very survival of the world itself is perhaps at stake. And to those who nevertheless relish conflict and destruction for their own sake or reckon that ultimately they stand to gain through them, we say that our very eternal souls are all also at stake if we fail to sincerely make every effort to make peace and come together in harmony. God says in the Holy Qur’an: Lo! God enjoineth justice and kindness, and giving to kinsfolk, and forbiddeth lewdness and abomination and wickedness. He exhorteth you in order that ye may take heed (Al Nahl, 16:90). Jesus Christ said: Blessed are the peacemakers (Matthew 5:9), and also: For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world and loses his soul? (Matthew 16:26). So let our differences not cause hatred and strife between us. Let us vie with each other only in righteousness and good works. Let us respect each other, be fair, just and kind to another and live in sincere peace, harmony and mutual goodwill.’

Julian Bond
Director, Christian Muslim Forum
on behalf of the members of the Forum

Campus Encounter, Kings College London

On Tuesday 8th December, in partnership with the Christian Muslim Forum’s Campus Encounter project, the newly formed King’s College London Inter Faith Network held ‘A Winter Celebration of Faith’ event. Over 30 students attended the event which involved stalls relating to Hanukkah, Christmas and Eid. The students were invited to sample traditional foods relating to each festival and filled themselves up on delicious doughnuts, mince pies and baklava, as well as learn about the symbols and practices relating to each festival. Please see the fun had at the gallery here Campus Encounter.

Representatives from the Islamic society, Catholic society and Jewish society gave short presentations about the festivals, which also included a demonstration of a traditional Islamic song about Eid. The evening was rounded off with an Interfaith quiz where all participants readily mingled and assembled themselves into teams, each including members of different faiths to aid with answering questions. The quiz was completed with a friendly competitiveness and was a resounding success. The winning team were very pleased to receive their prize and all agreed that they had learnt something new and that they were very much looking forward to future Interfaith events.

Campus Encounter is a project that the Christian Muslim Forum hopes to establish in various universities throughout the UK, starting primarily in London. It is rooted in the firm belief that the university campus is an environment that plays a key role in the development of a student’s identity (including religious identity) and how they engage with people of other faiths. There is sometimes a lack of creative dialogue between Christian and Muslim groups on campus and tension can arise when proselytising activities take place without the understanding that is gained through inter faith dialogue.

Christians and Muslims share many similar concerns, especially with regards to social issues. It is a great shame then that tensions exist between Muslim and Christian groups and that this can lead to misunderstanding and contributes to religion being perceived as a problem and not a solution.

The Christian Muslim Forum intends to continue its aim of forging strong relationships between Muslims and Christians, building bridges through practical projects and initiatives such as the King’s College winter celebration that was led by students, for students. It is a great example of how people of different faiths can work creatively together when sharing their faiths with others.
Daniel Edge / Peace Worker

Who do you say I am?

Christian and Muslim answers at Christmas

Jesus asks this question in the Gospel, there were various answers, but he wasn’t satisfied until Peter said, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God’. Christianity still stands by this answer, as do the Christian members of the Christian Muslim Forum. The question is often used today by evangelists but it is not often wrestled with as it was in the time of Jesus.

But this December emel, is asking, ‘In a world of divisions, can the man both Muslims and Christians call the Messiah, have the potential to be a bridge? The Muslim understanding of Jesus is simple. He was a man, born of a virgin (the account in the Qur’an’s third chapter very similar to the gospels). He was given prophethood by God from birth and performed miracles during his life by God’s leave. Muslims do not believe in the crucifixion; and the majority orthodox belief is that he did not die and will one day return. In a nutshell, that is it. But there is more.’ The article goes on to ask, ‘How is it possible to accept his virgin birth and yet reject him as divine?’

Muslims recognise the religious importance of Christmas for Christians and are opening up a dialogue and challenging the perceptions of many who are unaware of Jesus’s place in Islam. There is also an article in a recent edition of the New Statesman, while the Barnabas Fund addresses it in their January/February magazine. Muslims engaging with Christians about Jesus is an encouraging development, even if it has its own difficulties. I remember an ecumenical Lent group where we talked about a Radio 4 series – people of different religions were reflecting on Jesus. One of my friends crossly said, ‘I don’t want to hear about Jesus from a Buddhist!’

We can’t be Muslims and Christians and agree entirely about Jesus, though we can try to convince each other of the rightness of our own beliefs, in the best possible way. When we don’t handle our differences honestly we end up fudging or being perceived as compromising each faith’s distinctives. This is one of the concerns which many Christians have about some conversations between Muslims and Christians about Jesus. Our work in the Christian Muslim Forum depends on there being difference between us so we should be in a good place to explore the different opinions. So let’s ask ourselves, as Christians and Muslims, ‘Who do we say Jesus is? Is emel right that can he be a bridge?’

Christian Answers, Julian Bond

Muslim Answers, Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad and Shaykh Ibrahim Mogra

So where does this leave us? We are still different, we have not accepted each others beliefs. Some conversations about Jesus become unhelpful and unconvincing arguments about who is wrong and who is right. The best conversations are those where we listen patiently to each other and seek to understand, and hope that what we are trying to do is share what is important to us while giving space for ‘the other’ to share in the same way.

With greetings of Peace this Christmas,
‘Christmas statement’
Julian Bond, Abdal Hakim Murad, Ibrahim Mogra
with grateful acknowledgments to emel for the use of their image and their article

Climate Change hotting up

Young British Muslims and Christians hand over climate change statement to Parliamentary Under Secretary of State David Kidney MP.

In the lead up to the all important UN Climate Change Summit which will begin in Copenhagen on 7 December 2009, representatives of the Christian-Muslim Youth Forum on Climate Change (CMYF) handed over their statement on climate change to the Under Secretary of State for the Department of Energy & Climate Change, David Kidney MP.

The CMYF was created by the Christian-Muslim Forum and MADE in Europe to give young people a voice in the climate change debate.  On 15 October 2009, 30 young Christians and Muslims met at Lambeth Palace and, hosted by the Archbishop of Canterbury, developed a statement on climate change. The statement has been supported by nearly 760 individuals from across the UK and internationally and endorsed by many faith and community organisations including Three Faiths Forum, Federation of Student Islamic Societies (FOSIS), WasteWatch and Eco-Chip.

At the statement handover event on 1 December 2009, David Kidney MP applauded the initiative taken by the CMYF to put pressure on the Government to play a leading role in Copenhagen. He noted that faith communities throughout history have often taken the lead in tackling global issues and urged the young people to continue to raise awareness in their communities and to lobby the government.

Representatives of the CMYF will be travelling to Copenhagen with MADE in Europe where they will join campaigners from many other countries and demonstrate to the world’s leaders that people from diverse backgrounds have come together on this issue to demand justice.

Christian-Muslim Youth Forum on Climate Change (CMYF) has been set up by MADE IN Europe and the Christian Muslim Forum to give young British Muslims and Christians an opportunity to inform the climate change agenda in the run up to the UN Summit in Copenhagen, which will take place in December 7-18th 2009.

The Wave

Don’t forget The Wave on Saturday 5 December.

Our partner

We are pleased to be working with MADE in Europe (Muslim Agency for Development & Enterprise), an innovative UK-based organisation working to tackle global poverty. Made in Europe’s mission is to inspire and enable a grassroots European Muslim youth movement of faith in action for tackling global poverty, injustice and inequality through activities such as volunteering, campaigning and fundraising.  MADE in Europe also provides capacity building services for Muslim NGOs and support for cross-faith initiatives in international development.

Sarah Atkinson, MADE and Julian Bond, Christian Muslim Forum

Eid Mubarak 2009

Today is the 10th of Dhul Hijjah, the Eid of al Adha (Eid of Sacrifice). For those on Hajj (pilgrimage) they will be coming to the end of their pilgrimage and Muslims throughout the world will be remembering the way of Abraham and celebrating Eid with family and friends. All of us at the Christian Muslim Forum would like to extend our sincere prayers for a successful Hajj, and Eid Mubarak.

Eid al Adha is of particular relevance to the Christian and Muslim traditions, because the story of Abraham is shared by both faiths. Abraham’s way is one that we are all encouraged to follow as Christians and Muslims. It is a story of trust, reliance and patience, shared by both faiths. ‘When his son was old enough to walk with him, he said: ‘O my son! I have seen in a dream that I am slaughtering you (offering you in sacrifice to Allah), so see what you think!’ He said: ‘O Father! Do that which you are commanded, insh’allah (if Allah will), you shall find me of the patient.’ (Surah 37. 102)

All of the three monotheistic faiths know the story and its outcome. When Abraham and his son submitted themselves to God’s will and prepared for the sacrifice, God stops them: ‘Verily that indeed was a manifest trial. And we ransomed him with a great sacrifice (i.e. a ram). And We left for him a goodly remembrance among generations to come in later times’. (37.108) Our trials as Christians and Muslims are very different today! But we are often reminded as people of faith of the virtues of facing our difficulties with patience and trust in God.

‘O our Lord! I have made some of my offspring to dwell in a valley with no cultivation, by Your sacred House (the Ka’ba at Mecca); in order, O our Lord, that they may offer prayers perfectly, so fill some hearts among men with love towards them, and provide them with fruits so that they may give thanks.’ (14.37)

Christians remember figures like Abraham as Advent approaches (this weekend) and they prepare for Christmas and its message of sacrifice and peace. As we celebrate our own festivals we can celebrate each other as worshipping communities, remembering to pray for places where there are tensions and violence between Christians and Muslims.

We also take this opportunity to reissue our ‘Christmas statement’, which includes an article on Christmas from a Muslim perspective.
From the staff of the Christian Muslim Forum: Daniel Edge (writer), Julian Bond (editor), Nicky Minford, Nadeem Javaid. See Daniel’s Inter Faith Week Diary

Other statements
Sign up to our Christian-Muslim Climate Change statement
Ethical Witness guidelines

Inter Faith Week Diary

Inter Faith Week was a very eventful week for me, and found me in Exeter on 16 November and Newcastle on 18 November. Both events were confirmations of the fantastic inter faith work being done in Exeter, Newcastle and around the UK. It was a real pleasure to be part of it.

Exeter ‘Educating Ourselves and Our Children’

This multi faith event was organized by Devon Faiths Forum, Plymouth Centre for Faiths and Cultural Diversity, Torbay Inter Faith Forum, Exeter Inter Faith Group and Totnes Inter Faith Forum. Held at Exeter Library Music room, it not only included some great music and Qur’an recitation but also some wonderful traditional homemade food from the different faith groups involved.

It was a great opportunity to learn about the different faiths in Devon and the existing inter faith relationships between communities. Although not intentionally, the Christian Muslim Forum stall ended up between local Muslims from Exeter mosque and the local church inter faith group. I received a great deal of interest in the Forum’s Ethical Witness guidelines from both Muslim and Christians. It was a great chance to elaborate on what the witness guidelines mean and consider the merits of our Christian-Muslim Friendship Project. We will be developing the Friendship project in Exeter in the coming weeks, working with the local mosque and church.

After a chance to meet individual representatives of various faiths we retired to the library music room for a beautiful recitation of the Qur’an by a member of Exeter mosque which was translated into English. This was followed by my, and others, first lesson on wearing a Sikh turban. Martyn Goss from Devon Faiths Forum graciously volunteered to demonstrate the wearing of the turban. When the cloth was unravelled it was nearly as wide as the room that we were in! We were introduced to the significance of the turban and given the opportunity to ask questions about the Sikh faith.

From the Hindu community we were entertained by a wonderful dance accompanied by a traditional and modern South Indian music. The Exeter inter faith choir followed with Christian, Pagan, Jewish and Hindu traditional songs. This event was a truly wonderful celebration of the existing inter faith relationships in Devon. I look forward to working with the various communities in Exeter and developing further strong and sustainable relationships between Christians and Muslims.

Newcastle ‘A Multi-Cultural Experience’

People in Newcastle take pride in being helpful and courteous and I can confirm this through my experiences of being lost in Newcastle and seeking help! Individuals certainly go out of their way to help in general and this is certainly extended to people of other faiths and among the different faith groups in Newcastle. I was very pleased to be invited to an inter faith event held at Knop Law and Milecastle Primary School organised by the ‘Outside in’ Holy Nativity community project and the Newcastle Council of Faiths as well as individuals active in inter faith work. Key speakers from Islamic, Christian, Jewish, Jain, Bahai and Hindu communities gave their thoughts on the value and power of inter faith relationships, peace and social cohesion. All spoke powerful words of love, reconciliation and peace.

I received a very positive response to the mosque-church friendship project and hope to work with the local church and mosque in the future. As in Exeter, I discussed and outlined the importance of longstanding relationships between Muslims and Christians, and discussed the Ethical Witness guidelines. It was good to meet with people familiar with the Christian Muslim Forum and our work. The President of the mosque has a strong relationship with the Christian community and is part of Newcastle Council of Faiths. This relationship has been vital when challenges have occurred in the past, as in other communities in the U.K.

By far the most powerful demonstration and value of inter faith community was represented by the very talented children, who sang and danced contemporary and traditional faith songs, they were certainly the stars of the evening. I very much share the sentiments of the Sheriff of Newcastle when she mentioned the pride she had in the children’s understanding with regards to people of other faiths and their ability to teach us all what it means to live with faith in a diverse multi cultural community.

Daniel Edge
Peace Worker

Reflections on Inter Faith Week

The Launch

Inter Faith Week is not yet over but today seems a good time to reflect on what has happened so far. For me, and many others, Inter Faith Week began with a launch event on 12 November in London, many regional and national organisations had displays. There was a tremendous sense of energy and celebration as we shared our stories and details of our events. Some of the other organisations with an interest in Christian-Muslim relations are: St Ethelburga’sThree Faiths ForumUnited Religions InitiativeSt Philip’s Centre.

The highlight of the event was a series of brief speeches by young people of different faiths sharing their thoughts and experiences of inter faith which were truly inspirational and filled us with hope for what the next generation might achieve.

Faith Leaders Meeting

The second event I attended was a meeting of faith leaders and trustees of the Inter Faith Network at Lambeth Palace on 16 November. A statement was agreed and signed, these are the key points:
  • We believe that good inter faith relations are a vital part of a harmonious, just and respectful society.
  • We pledge, today, to deepen our work to increase understanding about and between our faiths and to strengthen our cooperation on social issues.
  • We renew our commitment to developing effective and long term ways of dialogue and mutual learning.
  • While our great religious traditions are distinct in belief and practice, there is much that unites us.
  • We will work to tackle with renewed determination the challenges of poverty, ignorance, injustice, crime and violence, and social fragmentation and to help shape a society where all feel at home; all are valued and justly treated; and all have a chance to thrive.

Interfaith Day

The most ground-breaking event of the week took place at London Central Mosque (Regents Park). The Mosques and Imams National Advisory Board (MINAB), in collaboration with Lambeth Palace, organised an Interfaith Day. A central mosque is a mosque for the city, perhaps having a role similar to a cathedral, it is an open and welcoming space. The event itself showed the commitment of the Muslim community to improving inter faith relations by highlighting how this modern idea is integral to Islam since its earliest days. Some extracts from speeches by Muslims:
  • Maulana Mohammad Khan – ‘Islam lived in an inter faith community and started out by respecting other communities, our faith is not complete if we do not respect other beliefs, their scriptures and symbols.’
  • Chowdhury Mueen-Uddin – ‘Inter faith is not a hollow and secular initiative, it cannot be faith-less, we should learn from what other faiths have to offer, we cannot be adversarial. All faiths bring an enormous value to our lives. Christianity is a defining force for this civilisation. Differences of religion are the plan of God and it will remain so forever.’
  • Said Ferjani – ‘Dialogue is the engine of all the prophets – Jesus dialogued with everyone – it is the pillar of any genuine faith.’
  • Sayyed Mohammed Mousawi – ‘Islam is based on the best inter faith foundation, the Prophet Muhammad, who said, “be good to every human being”. Inter faith is the way of true religion, we need a movement of inter faith and should invite people to our mosques. We need to make inter faith a lively truth in our lives.’
  • Dr Ahmed Al Dubayan, newly appointed Chair of MINAB’s interfaith committee and Director General, London Central Mosque – ‘We need to build more bridges of understanding and dialogue. The alternative is misunderstanding, hate and ultimately terror.’
  • Fuad Nahdi, Radical Middle Way – ‘Listening is OK but dialogue is more advanced, it is not just tea, cucumber sandwiches and samosas. It is time for convergence not conversion.’

We look forward to telling you about our own Peace Worker’s experiences during Inter Faith Week next week.

Another ongoing initiative

Please sign up to our Christian-Muslim statement on climate change.

Julian Bond

Reflections from Bosnia

It never ceases to amaze me, the human ability to forge strong and sustainable friendship between strangers. Our journeorthoy to Bosnia was a testimony to this, both as a group of Christians and Muslims from the UK and among the Christians and Muslims of Bosnia. Travelling to Bosnia was both a pleasure and a challenge to us all and a test of our faith.
Bosnia, like many other countries that conflict and war has visited, is surely one of the most beautiful countries I have seen. War and genocide does not discriminate along lines of aesthetic beauty, it appears where it likes, making use of existing tensions and conflict. This is certainly true of Bosnia where unresolved conflicts of the past resurfaced during the war between 1991-1995. I would like to be writing here that those wounds caused by war are being treated sufficiently by those who have the ability and power to do so, but this is not always the case, and more needs to be done at both national and international levels to heal those wounds.

However, we as a group certainly witnessed the highest sort of faith, manifest in those wishing to heal the wounds between communities and make strong and lasting friendships. I witnessed this ability and desire to reconcile many times whilst in Bosnia, but those most memorable to me are an Imam and an Orthodox priest telling ‘Imam and Priest’ jokes whilst travelling with us. To be accompanied by an Orthodox Priest, an Imam and a Friar whilst visiting various different places of worship is certainly a picture of hope for Bosnia, a picture of hope that needs to be shared not only in Bosnia but among our culturally diverse world.

Our belief in forgiveness is often challenged as people of faith, and I would like to take this opportunity to present a challenge given to us as a group whilst visiting Srebrenica. A mother who had lost all her family in the Genocide in Bosnia asked “how can we forgive if no one is asking for forgiveness” one of the answers might be found in the fact that this courageous mother had returned to Srebrenica and was living among those people that might ask her for forgiveness.

What follows is an inscription found in the cemetery at Srebrenica:

In the name of God, almighty, merciful and compassionate, we pray that sorrow may turn into hope, that revenge may turn into justice, that mothers’ tears may become prayers, and that nowhere and never again will there be a Srebrenica.

Daniel Edge
Peace Worker

Other members of the group also wrote about their experiences. You can read the reflections of Catriona Robertson in her blog which contains many photographs from the week. We hope to add more from the others and invite them to let us have links that we can add to this piece.

Reflections from Nasar Fiaz