Posts Tagged ‘Bible’

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

Inter Faith Bible Study

Muslims, Christians and people of other faiths should witness together to God’s compassion in a world where too many suffer destitution and injustice, a Muslim scholar and a Christian leader agreed during an interfaith Bible study held at a 12-16 May German church convention (Kirchentag) in Munich. It is very unusual to find a Muslim scholar with the ability and opportunity to deliver a Bible study to a Christian audience.

Ultimately, it is ‘no advantage for Jews to be Jews, Christians to be Christians, and Muslims to be Muslims’, said Muslim scholar Dr Ataullah Siddiqui (fomer Co-Chair of the Christian Muslim Forum). What really matters, Siddiqui argued, is the ‘human concern’ for ‘the poor and the needy’. For the Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, general secretary of the World Council of Churches, ‘God is compassionate’ and therefore asks people ‘to be compassionate’. All human beings have a common calling ‘to live according to God’s will in this land’.

Siddiqui and Tveit were jointly conducting a dialogue Bible study on the text of the Gospel according to Matthew, chapter 25, verses 31-46, often referred to as ‘The judgment of the nations’. The Bible study was part of the programme of the Kirchentag. This church convention, celebrated ecumenically for the second time, was organized by Protestant and Catholic lay movements and attracted about 125,000 participants.

For Tveit, the text of Matthew 25 does not intend to speculate ‘about scenarios for the future’, but rather to ‘express critical, sometimes surprising perspectives on our life here and now’. It tells the reader that what is required here and now is ‘spontaneous attention to the basic need of another human being’. ‘The criterion is to live as Jesus Christ did. Sometimes even against some religious rules – for the sake of humanity. Christ alone is a criterion for the real life of a human being created in God’s image’, Tveit said. For Siddiqui, the text of Matthew 25 does not only challenge Christians. If, as the message of the text has it, human dignity cannot be compromised, there is need for ‘co-witnessing’ – Muslims, Christians and people of other faiths ‘need to stand together’. [Ed – The Christian Muslim Forum’s Ethical Witness Guidelines are a good example of this]

For that to happen, Siddiqui said, ‘we need respectful, hospitable theologies’. He stressed the need to ‘recognize and appreciate the otherness of the other’. Two hospitable theologies, from the Anglican and Catholic churches.

For Tveit, in today’s globalized world it is crucial to recognize one another as fellow human beings with the same needs. Muslims and Christians need to respond together to this challenge. ‘Interfaith cooperation is a contribution to achieving a just peace, since focusing on our common values is not being naive but realistic’ he said.
Some of Ataullah Siddiqui’s inter faith publications:

Julian Bond
Director, Christian Muslim Forum

Meeting God in Friend and Stranger

Fostering respect and mutual understanding between the religions

On St George’s Day, 23 April 2010, Christian and Muslim members of the Christian Muslim Forum attended the launch of ‘Meeting God in Friend & Stranger’ by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales at the Archbishop of Westminster’s House.

Archbishop Vincent Nichols said, ‘This is a most important document addressing the theme of dialogue between the faiths. It, therefore, addresses many points of great significance for our society, not least for those who, at this moment, do not appreciate the importance of religious faith. I hope it receives widespread attention.’

We hope that many Christians, Muslims, and people of other faiths and beliefs will take the time to read this document which begins some key texts from the Christian Scriptures.

  • ‘I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him (Acts 10:35)’
  • ‘From one ancestor he made all nations to inhabit the whole earth, and he allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live, so that they would search for God and perhaps grope for him and find him – though indeed he is not far from each one of us. (Acts 17:26-27)’

Other themes covered are:

  • Prayer and worship
  • Interreligious marriage
  • Local relationships
  • Catholic examples

Other Inter Faith Documents


Other News and Events from the Christian Muslim Forum

23 April, Death threats against a Muslim leader involved in inter faith dialogue
11 May, Social Attitudes Seminar, Issues about Religion in Today’s Society, London
15 May, Cross Crescent and Cool, dialogue training event for youth workers, London
4-6 June, Men’s Retreat, In the Footsteps of Abraham, Wales

30 June, 1 July, Friends and Neighbours, developing relationships between Christians and Muslims across the West Midlands, Coventry

Happy Birthday

Monday’s event (18 January 2010) Healing Families – Healing Communities celebrated our work and our fourth birthday (24 January 2010), although as my colleague Musharraf Hussain reminds me we are the latest chapter of a fourteen-hundred year story. We were pleased to be back at the The London Interfaith Centre to explore how our scriptures and faith traditions offer constructive help or support to the troubles facing families in today’s world.

Maggie Hindley (a United Reformed Church Minister and our new Community and Public Affairs specialist) opened by saying, ‘I would have liked to read the whole of the book of Genesis, with its stories of sibling rivalry, murder, Noah’s dysfunctional family (drunkenness and tale-telling), competition between Abraham’s two wives, Sarah and Hagar, Jacob and Esau’s feud, Joseph’s victimisation.’ Themes all too familiar from today’s soaps!

Uta Blohm

Uta’s (a URC minister as well) first story was Jesus welcoming small children while his disciples tried to shoo them away and how as a preacher she struggled with her own children wanting to be with her in the pulpit and not letting them come to church with her. Until she realised, what is the point of gathering in the name of Jesus if we cannot include the children? She also described how difficult it is for women with small children to find space for any meaningful spiritual life and thought that religious communities had an obligation to support young families and young mothers in particular. Men have an obligation towards the family that reaches beyond just providing financial support. She found that ‘prayer puts our family struggles into perspective’. She also thought that the momentous task of caring for a very vulnerable human being is a spiritual experience in itself.

Difficult feelings in the family are part of life and religious texts such as the story of Cain and Able help us to deal with them, not avoid them. When our children annoy us and we are angry with them then they are ‘testing our grace’ (challenging us to be as patient and merciful with our children as God is with us). Equally, we have to have compassion for ourselves. We can learn to be better parents but we will never be perfect.

Other stories from the Bible that we read together: Cain and Abel (the first murder), the unforgiving servant, the Prodigal Son. So what do we learn from these stories?:

  • How to forgive our own parents
  • Cain and Abel – the importance of recognising not denying our feelings, especially when we are competitive or angry
  • In response to the prompt question – is it OK to be imperfect parents? – yes, we have to be imperfect to have the potential for growth
  • Isn’t it surprising that we, religious people and society, have so many expectations of perfection when the examples of scripture and everyday life are imperfect
  • ‘I was the perfect parent until I had children of my own!’
  • We learn a lot about ourselves through our children
  • Children should feel that they are loved
  • One parent expressed the personal view, ‘We would be very selfish and arrogant without children’
Julian Bond

Halima Krausen

After reflecting on the Bible stories, we were very fortunate to have Shaykha Halima Krausen, imam and scholar from Germany, introduce some texts from the Qur’an. Halima made us aware that the Qur’an assumes that we are familiar with the stories and people in the Bible, many of the ayahs (verses) in the Qur’an beginning with ‘Remember when …’ So it was interesting to find me and others in our group referring to the Bible, just to find out the genealogy of Mary and the relevant stories that the Quran referred to.

We were reminded that the Quran is not an instruction manual, it does not have a ‘Troubleshooting’ chapter! It requires reading time and time again. Halima pointed out to us that where the Qur’an refers to Jesus as ‘son of Mary’, the Bible refers to Mary as the mother of Jesus. Our discussions about Mary and Jesus often lead us to consider Mary as a sanctified being and her importance in both faiths.

As with the Bible stories, Shaykha Halima asked us to consider the Qur’anic text that she had selected and then share some of our reflections with the other groups. Our group chose the following: Remember when the wife of Imran said: O my Lord! I have vowed to you what is in my womb to be dedicated for your services, so accept this from me……. (Quran 3:35)

It was of no surprise that our reflections were often very similar to those found when considering the Bible stories. The implications of unexpected family structures are a challenge to us today as they might have been then. An unmarried mother and an elderly lady giving birth are certainly worth considering when talking about family issues. They share the same complexities found in family life today and underline the importance of family in our own spiritual journey, as well as highlighting some of the sacrifices people make.

Bearing in mind that both the Bible and the Qur’an seemed to share many common themes and understandings, one group questioned why do both faiths sometimes disagree with one another?
A question we have all had to ask as people of faith.

One member of our group noted that the roles we play in our family can be a form of worship. The Qur’an mentions that: ‘The believers, men and women are Auliya (helpers, supporters, friends or protectors) of one another’, which gives us a great understanding of the spiritual dimension that our family relationships play when resolving difficult issues. It was also interesting to see that far from diminishing the role of women in Islam, the Qur’an showed us women who were empowered and taking a lead, an issue important to all the women in our workshop.

All in all, taking part in the workshops provided amazing insight and help to how we, as people of faith, approach family life and our life in the wider community. It was a pleasure to learn and share with others what our scriptures say and how we understand them in our every day lives.

Daniel Edge

Other Ways to Get Involved

4 February 2010 (closing date), Faiths Act Campaign Leaders wanted.
23 February 2010, LIFE event, Brixton
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