Posts Tagged ‘Brixton’

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

Triple First for Forum!

The first week of Spring was the impetus for three events organised by the Christian Muslim Forum which took us from Lambeth Palace to Oxford via Brixton.

Scholars Dialogue

We began the week with a seminar kindly hosted by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Christian and Muslim scholars looked at whether dialogue can really deal with differences without avoidance or compromise. Is it critical for a society of many faiths, a waste of time, or impossible for those who are committed to their own faith? The key speakers were the Archbishop of Canterbury and Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad of Cambridge University. The Archbishop asked whether in dialogue questions are being asked that we wouldn’t have thought of asking ourselves. He went on to say that, ‘Every human face is worth attending to, every human voice is worth hearing … how much more so when we see another human face and hear another human voice turned towards God?’ He described really listening to each other as ‘dialogue at its best’.  Dialogue can be a ‘God given means of discovery’, we can ‘start questioning our own questions’. He said that it is not easy to find a space that we can inhabit together. This last observation inspired us for the rest of the week.

We are currently working on a fuller version of this event and on publication of the speeches and discussion.

Bread and Soup in Brixton

Inspired by Christian Aid’s ‘Super Soup’ Lent campaign we held our first local event in London to meet with our neighbours, learn about Christian-Muslim relationships and find out how the Forum could be useful. Donations from the day are being divided equally between Christian Aid and its partner Islamic Relief, they have been working together for a number of years to enable them to better provide aid and support to all those who need it. Before the food we opened with the inspiring film ‘The Imam and the Pastor’, a story of inter faith violence and reconciliation from Nigeria. After delicious Eritrean food, we were excited to learn of a number of South London initiatives: ‘Faithful Friends’ (a continuing group of those who have taken the Understanding Islam course), ‘Conversations of the Soul’ and South London Citizens, bringing together Christians, Muslims and people of other faiths . A range of people – Christian, Muslim and Buddhist – were interested in building better local relationships and friendships, especially between young people. There was much interest in being part of an ongoing initiative and in the Christian Muslim Forum’s Mosque-Church Twinning project.

Family Matters

The picture was even more mixed in Oxford where a number of people who joined us for lunch and conversation were in mixed faith marriages. There was a real bustle as people queued up for lunch at our first Oxford event. Inspired by our 2008 family conference, led by our Family specialists – Humera Khan and Heather al-Yousuf – we broke into smaller groups to explore:

  • Faith and mental health
  • Faith and caring for the elderly, the vulnerable, and the lonely
  • Bridging the generations
  • Faith: “too hot to handle”, divisive or a reminder of what we share?
  • Faith, fear and stereotypes
  • Oxford connections – local resources, local action

Some of the interesting discussions were around:

  • Polygamy and living together outside marriage
  • Does religion help or hinder mental illness?
  • Being more aware of young people’s needs
  • The importance of breaking stereotypes
  • Talking about dying and the role of carers
  • How can we extend our neighbourliness?

Our concluding reflections highlighted the ‘happy blend of friendship and issues’ and how together we should find ways of developing and exploring both.
Comments from Oxford friends:

  • Very open, sincere and hopeful environment
  • I enjoyed it a lot – loved the stimulus of meeting new people and focusing on ‘issues’
  • A very rare opportunity to listen to people who clearly break the mould of stereotypes

We look forward to developing all three of these initiatives both nationally and locally. Thanks to everyone who took part and supported us during the week.

Next Event

Our next event, in London, is on Saturday 17 April 2010 at the Loughborough Community Centre in Brixton. Dr Chris Hewer will be leading a study day on ‘Understanding Islam’. We hope to run an Understanding Christianity course soon. Please get in touch if you would like to attend, or get involved in any other way, or if you would like to support our work with a donation.

Julian Bond