Posts Tagged ‘book launch’

No Enemy to Conquer

Faith leaders join forces to launch new book on forgiveness, 14 May 2009

A rabbi, an imam and the director of the Christian Muslim Forum of Britain spoke at the launch of a new book about forgiveness, held at the St Ethelburga’s Centre for Reconciliation and Peace in the City of London, on 13 May.

‘No Enemy to Conquer’, subtitled ‘Forgiveness in an Unforgiving World’, by author and journalist Michael Henderson, was commissioned by an American university press, following his earlier books on the theme of forgiveness.

In his welcoming remarks, Simon Keyes, Director of the St Ethelburga’s Centre, said that Henderson had had ‘a huge influence on the development of our work’ at the centre and that his earlier book ‘Forgiveness – breaking the chain of hate ‘was one of the foundation texts of our work here’. He regarded Henderson as ‘one of our founding fathers’.

The centre, a former church that had been bombed by the IRA, aimed to ‘build bridges in divisions caused by conflict where people can meet as equals,’ Keyes said. ‘Reconciliation is the space where mercy meets conflict and leads to peace.’ And forgiveness was ‘a key element in the exercise of mercy’.

Henderson, who has been long associated with Initiatives of Change, said that one of his aims in writing the new book was ‘to further an appreciation of our brothers and sisters of the Muslim faith’.


Hosting the launch event, Dr Musharraf Hussain al-Azhari, Co-Chair of the Christian Muslim Forum and Director of the Karimia Institute in Nottingham, declared that he had found the book ‘a great inspiration’. It represented ‘a tour de force of extraordinary stories, remarkable encounters between victims and offenders and soul-stirring tales of human goodness.’ The book’s title suggested ‘a true feeling of freedom from fear – a precursor of peace – that is the consequence of forgiveness’.
Dr Hussain emphasized that in the Quran ‘one of the most common names of God is as the forgiver’. The strength of Henderson’s book, he said, lay in its ’25 moving and heart-rending stories’ as well as the contributions in it from academics and personalities such as Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Britain’s Chief Rabbi, Sir Jonathan Sacks.
Rabbi Dr Jonathan Magonet, a leading Jewish theologian and Vice-President of the UK Movement for Reform Judaism, said that Henderson’s book ‘covers much of the ground of a Jewish perspective on forgiveness’. A text from the book of Exodus –  ‘an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth’ – had become ‘an infamous text ripped out of its context’, he said. It was not intended to be read literally as advocating retribution but rather a call for ‘the appropriate financial compensation for losses incurred’.

The book of Leviticus, however, declared that ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself’ – words later quoted by Jesus that went ‘beyond reaction and revenge’.  ‘We are into territory well covered in [Henderson’s] book,’ Professor Magonet said. Forgiveness was ‘foregoing the offender’s indebtedness’, and ‘If repentance has taken place then it is our duty to forgive’. Empathy also recognized human frailty and acknowledged that ‘in similar circumstances we might have done the same thing’. But ‘the ultimate atonement can only be done by God’.

Julian Bond, Director of the Christian Muslim Forum, an initiative of the Archbishop of Canterbury, quoted words from the Lord’s Prayer of Jesus: ‘Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors’. Forgiveness was thus ‘conditional and reciprocal’. ‘God asks us to share reconciliation and forgiveness with other people… seeking the best for our neighbours.’ It was easy to forget that forgiveness was at the heart of the various faith traditions ‘and at the heart of our humanness’.

Henderson quoted the late Benazir Bhutto, former Prime Minister of Pakistan, from her essay in the book, written just before her assassination, in which she draws on her own experience of forgiveness: ‘My parents always taught me that a good Muslim is one who forgives. And I know we share in common this important teaching with the Christian faith.’

Henderson said that he had not set out to define forgiveness or discuss theology ‘but to celebrate the courage of those who have been willing, sometimes in the most unexpected situations to go the route of forgiveness, to give hope where sometimes the future looks bleak, and to offer perhaps encouragement to others to follow their example.’

In writing the book he had come to see forgiveness ‘more as a journey than a one-off decision,’ he said. For some, forgiveness was the start of a journey and ‘for some it may prove to be the destination at the end of the journey; for most it is the decisions, often renewed as we falter, that are made along the way.’

Henderson quoted from another essay in the book by Rajmohan Gandhi, a grandson of Mahatma Gandhi and President of Initiatives of Change International, who believes that ‘our propensity to demonize the other can give way to fresh compassion’.

The book’s title is taken from the words of the divine prince Rama in the Hindu epic the Ramayana:  ‘Whoever has this righteous chariot has no enemy to conquer whatsoever’.

Henderson claimed the longest connection with St Ethelburga’s of all those present. His parents had been married there in 1931 and he himself had been baptized there 77 years ago.

Participants in the book launch saw a 10-minute clip from the documentary film The Imam and the Pastor, telling the remarkable story of the reconciliation between two former rival militia leaders in northern Nigeria. Their story is featured in Henderson’s book.

‘No enemy to conquer – forgiveness in an unforgiving world’, by Michael Henderson, Baylor University Press, USA, 220 pages, ISBN: 9781602581401. Available at a discounted price of £8.79 from the distributor.

Written by Michael Smith, Initiatives of Change

Posted by the Christian Muslim Forum

Peace Worker and Peace Writer

Peace Worker
Hello and assalam alaikum from Daniel Edge (Peace worker and new employee)

I truly believe that of all our human attributes, being able to act compassionately, reconciling our differences and seeing that of God in everyone are among the highest.To see any of these attributes in action is a testimony to our humanity. So I feel honoured that I should play any part in realising this belief and really be putting my faith into action by working for the Christian Muslim Forum on secondment from the Quakers. I hope that in the coming year, and beyond, that my work at the Christian Muslim Forum will help in the continual effort to build a better understanding, and forge stronger relationships between Christians and Muslims in the UK and abroad.

However inadvertently, my time studying, teaching and living in various Muslim countries and communities, has given me a deep appreciation of Islam and has often put me in a position to help reconcile the challenges facing Muslim and Christian communities that I have lived in. I feel that my understanding of Islam and Christianity will help me in my new role. Having spent some time in conflict zones such as Kashmir, I’m very aware of the importance of the Christian Muslim Forum and the work that it does. Working with the forum will allow me to seek a common goal of peace sort by both Islam and Christianity and the wider community, celebrate similarities and deal with conflict in a positive and creative manner. I look forward to the year ahead and beyond.

If I’m not found in a Mosque, Church, Temple or Shrine then I’ll be with my wife and three Daughters. If I ever get the opportunity and find someone stupid enough to climb with me, I go rock climbing, that’s if I’ve recovered from my injuries incurred from my previous visits to a rock face! I’m very excited about my new role at the Christian Muslim Forum and look forward to the challenges ahead. It’s a pleasure to be working in an organisation that shares the same values and aims as I do. Should you wish to contact me please send me an email.

Daniel Edge
Peace Writer
I had the privilege of attending the launch of ‘Faiths and Faithfulness’ by Nicholas Wood (one of our trustees) at Regent’s Park College, Oxford. Nick’s book is notable in that it brings together the questions of pluralism, dialogue and mission in an inter faith context, exploring these from an evangelical Baptist confessional standpoint. The same kind of thinking that features in the Christian Muslim Forum’s ‘Ethical Witness’ guidelines informs Nick’s writing (he was part of the group in the Forum which developed our statement).

This is a book which is mainly intended for those within the Christian evangelical tradition and explores the work and writings of Kenneth Cragg and the late Lesslie Newbiggin – Bishop Cragg spoke fondly of Lesslie at the launch. It is also for all of those who are grappling with issues such as: inclusive or exclusive and how does the firm believer in their own faith engage with the challenge of those of other faiths? So, a useful book for Muslims to read also. It also provides some of the depth that cannot be a part of shorter statements like our Ethical Witness guidelines.

Julian Bond