Posts Tagged ‘international’

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

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