Posts Tagged ‘healing communities’

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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