Posts Tagged ‘Daniel Edge’

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

Local Christian-Muslim Friendship

On Sunday 23 May 2010 a group of Muslim students from Newcastle University made their way to St Thomas’ church in the Haymarket, for a meeting and conversation with members of the congregation, under the banner of the Christian Muslim Forum. When they arrived, the congregation were enjoying a cup of coffee and some Birthday cake (Pentecost is the church’s Birthday, after all), so they joined in. Friendships were started at this point. It seemed almost a shame to call the group to order, to sit down in a circle; but the more formal session that followed was well worthwhile.

Catherine opened the proceedings with a welcome to St Thomas’ church, a 5 minute exposition of Christianity, and of her own faith. Turki then spoke for a few minutes, echoing how pleased he was to be present. The floor was then open to questions and discussion. Some quite challenging issues were raised:  “What about the Trinity?” “How do Muslims manage conflict in their community?” “What do Christians say about sex before marriage?” as well as some more light-hearted questions: What is an Archbishop? The focus on this occasion was more on Christianity than on Islam – that will be reversed at the return visit planned for October.

Daniel Edge, from the Christian Muslim Forum, chaired the proceedings, and all felt able to contribute. Once again at this point it seemed a shame to move on, but there was a substantial amount of food laid out, and it would have been wrong to waste it. So conversations continued over lunch, and the basis of a relationship forged.

The scheduled return visit is booked for Sunday 10 October. Although this date will fit well with the new academic year, those present felt it would be wrong to wait as long as October for the next stage in the process, so Daniel, Turki, and Catherine will be looking to see what can be arranged in the mean time.

The stated aims of the meeting were: to learn more about one another, to confirm our faiths’ commitment to peace and friendship, and to celebrate the continual process of engagement and dialogue that exists, as well as to have something to eat. All of these were achieved, and we are committed to continuing, and extending, the process.

Anybody is welcome to ask more about this, and if interested, please do get in touch. Two photos taken on the day can be seen in our gallery.

Our booklet on Mosque-Church Friendship.
Daniel Edge, Christian Muslim Forum
Revd Catherine Lack, University Chaplain and “Master” of St Thomas’ Church
Turki Abalala, President, Newcastle University Islamic Society

Other brief news items

Another one to challenge perceptions – an article written by a Muslim (Dawud Bone) on ‘Christians – A Religious Minority? Has political correctness led to the rejection of Christianity?’ Published by our friends at emel magazine and follows on from the BBC’s Easter programme – ‘Are Christians Being Persecuted?’. Some of the points touched on are raised in our ‘Christmas statement’.

The Archbishop of Canterbury’s Building Bridges Seminar has just taken place in Georgetown.
Following lack of take-up due to cost our Friends and Neighbours event will now be non-residential, please click on the link for more details (updating soon) or email us.

Please support our ongoing work – events, training, resources, new-sharing – with a donation, or  get in touch to get more involved.

Julian Bond

Bosnians Visit UK

Bosnian Delegation Visit UK

When visiting Bosnia in October last year, it soon became apparent that as our friendship developed, it would be only natural that our hosts would visit us in the UK. So I am very pleased to say, that with the hard work and dedication of Anjum Anwar and Chris Chivers from Blackburn Cathedral, as well as Leslie Griffiths and Paul Johns, that this visit was made possible, and was a great success.

This was a wonderful opportunity for those who did not travel to Bosnia last year to meet with some of the people that took part in the Christian Muslim conference. The Bosnian delegation was made up of Six Christians and Four Muslim, all whom we had met when in Bosnia and all whom had valuable stories to share with the people that they met in the UK.

Our Bosnian friends were in great demand. Starting their week visiting Nottingham, then on to Blackburn and ending in London, where in one day they visited Westminster Abbey, given a tour of the House of Lords, took tea with Princess Alexandra, finishing their busy day with a guided tour of London, a project I was only too happy to lead!

It was more than appropriate that their stay in Blackburn coincided with the launch of the ‘F word’ at Blackburn Cathedral. I continue to be amazed by the power of forgiveness and love expressed by our Muslim and Christian friends. The recollection of the conflict in Bosnia by our guests proves to be a continual lesson for people of all faiths, and a powerful example of how our faith can provide us a lucid picture of reality in times of conflict.

It is often the case that we do little justice when trying to explain the ability of faith to reconcile differences. It is often better to listen and learn from the accounts of those who have been involved in violent conflict. The Bosnian visit enabled this process to take place and reach a larger audience, within what was a very busy and tiring week for our guests.

Listening to the stories of the Bosnian conflict from both Christian and Muslim, young and old, reminded me that it is often in times of great darkness that we truly learn who we are and the important role that our faith plays in our everyday lives. Of the many stories we heard from our Bosnian friends one story will always stay with me, and I hope by sharing it with you, you can also benefit from it.

Father Niko from Tuzla recollected the sheer fear, that at any moment his house and church could be attacked from various groups, a situation shared by many at the time, all previous trust and relationships between communities having broken down. It was amid this fear and confusion that a Muslim neighbour approached Father Niko’s father for help. His Muslim neighbour’s house had been shelled and it was no longer safe for him to stay in what was left of his house. Niko’s father suggested that his neighbour could stay in his house.

It was this kindness that led to Niko’s father being questioned by the Serbian forces for helping ‘the enemy’. Being a religious man and a man of knowledge, Niko’s father defended his decision to help his neighbour on deep theological grounds,much to the annoyance of his interrogators. Under threat of being killed, Niko’s father continued to hold his position on the grounds of Christian belief, and the right of his neighbour. Drawing upon a lifetime of studying Christianity, Niko’s father elaborated on his position as an Orthodox Christian, testing his interrogators patience to such an extent, that in the end, rather than have to listen to him further, they let him go.

Not only is this a wonderful story to hear, it was one told by Niko with some humour, remembering his father’s stubborn theological position, which possibly saved his life. It is a story of deep religious conviction, and courage. Niko’s father was taking this action in a time when Christian and Muslim understanding was being distorted to justify the killing of innocent people. It is also a great example of non-violent action in a time of violent conflict.

I consider it very special to have heard many stories like this from both Christians and Muslims alike. I deeply appreciate the opportunity given to us, one where we can share each others experiences of living together with different faiths.

Daniel Edge

Seminar on Christian-Muslim Encounters

On the 22nd and 23rd of January 2010, myself and Rahima Caratella from the St.Philips centre attended a seminar in Paris organized by SERIC on behalf of GAIC. The main purpose of the seminar was to share and evaluate each organisations respective activity throughout 2009 inter faith week.

Although November was the UK’s first inter faith week, for some of our European counterparts this was their 9th inter faith week, focusing on Christian-Muslim encounters. There were Christian and Muslim delegates from each country which included Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Holland, Italy, Poland and Spain. In many cases the Christians and Muslims from each country had worked together on various inter faith projects at both local and regional levels. The gamut of activities and experiences shared by all the groups was staggering and every one of us benefited from hearing about these activities.

Each country shared a unique evaluation of inter faith week, often shaped by each country’s particular experience of Islamic and Christian relationships. It was duly noted that where the majority of Muslims in one country might be of North African origin, in another it might be Asian origin. This often meant that each of our country’s Christian and Muslim encounters might be different, our cultures often reflected in how we understand and practice our religion.

What was apparent was the desire of each community to build stronger relationships between Christians and Muslims. In discussing this we each indicated what challenges we face in achieving this goal, this included lack of funding, negative media coverage, and that some Christian-Muslim dialogue is not reaching our respective congregations.

One of the key questions asked of us was how important is it to have an interfaith week (one which focussed on Christians and Muslims) and what is specific about Christian-Muslim dialogue today. A summary of our response can be found in the following document: Christian-Muslim Inter faith Week.

It was very clear that all of our experiences of interfaith week were positive and often an extension of the work that we continue to do all year round. Some of the projects that our European colleagues were engaged with throughout interfaith week can be found on the SERIC website.

One project that I found particular joy in hearing about was initiated between a mosque in Bergen, Holland and its neighbouring church across the road. A tent was placed between the mosque and the church and lights from each place of worship guided the congregation to the tent where they were served tea. After some light refreshments each group continued to follow the lights into the other’s place of worship, where they were shown around. Incidentally, whilst Muslim and Christian were busy learning about the other’s place of worship, the tent was blown down the road and resulted in an interfaith ‘find and recover the tent’ project!

Daniel Edge

Peace Worker

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

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 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

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