Posts Tagged ‘musharraf hussain’

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

Good Friday and Easter Sunday

I write this at a key point in the Christian calendar, between ‘Good Friday’, when Christians remember the death of Jesus, who was crucified by the Roman authorities, and Easter Sunday, when Christians look forward again to celebrating his resurrection. It is the most Christian time of year, less secular than Christmas, despite the vast quantities of Easter eggs we sweet-toothed Brits consume.
It can also be seen as the time when Christians and Muslims part company, our ‘nativity’ stories have much in common but when it comes to the end of Jesus’ life, the Quran’s story of him has already finished, except to look forward to his return. The key Christian beliefs about Jesus – crucifixion, atonement, resurrection, ascension – are as distinctive, and divisive, as the second part of the shahadah (the Muslim statement of faith) – ‘and Muhammad is the Messenger of God’.

What happens when we differ and disagree?

The Christian Muslim Forum recently shared these differences together with a dialogue on Jesus and Muhammad, it felt good to share what was precious to us, deeply and controversially, but also genuinely and gently. Our relationships grew and deepened as we explored what distinguishes our religions and we were drawn together through better understanding. Our beliefs don’t make us enemies, ideology does that.

I was reminded this week by a non-religious friend that getting on with Muslims, or Christians, is no big deal. Unfortunately, it isn’t always that easy, those who know each other do get on well; for others there can be all kinds of myths, stereotypes and prejudices. As the Christian Muslim Forum our ultimate aim is that relations between Christians and Muslims, and with wider society, are no longer troubled by the difficulties that exist today, some of which we read about regularly in the media, especially in hotspots like Nigeria.

On Good Friday in Nottingham, challenging various perceptions, the churches’ walk of witness, carrying a cross, again passed Dr Musharraf Hussain’s mosque where they were welcomed and Christians and Muslims prayed alongside each other. We hope to share more of this story soon. Also, in the run-up to Easter, Dr Ida Glaser of the Christian-Muslim Study Centre in Oxford dialogued with Mehdi Hassan on the Guardian’s Comment is Free.

The Christian Muslim Forum will be continuing to build Christian-Muslim friendships during Spring and Summer:

Being a Faith School, London, 28 April 2010
Social Attitudes Seminar, London, 11 May 2010
Men’s Retreat – Following in the Footsteps of Abraham, nr Chester, 4-6 June 2010
Friends and Neighbours in the West Midlands, Coventry, 30 June – 1 July 2010

Booking will go live for the retreat and West Midlands events soon, please click on the links to reserve a place or express an interest. We will be inviting people to attend our seminar on the British Social Attitudes Survey, please click on the link if you are interested in this.

Happy Easter and belated Passover greetings to Jewish friends.

Julian Bond

New Chair for the Forum

The Rt Revd Dr Richard Cheetham, the Bishop of Kingston, has become Chair of the Christian Muslim Forum. He has been Vice-Chair of the Forum since 2008 and takes over from Dr Musharraf Hussain who has been Chair for the last two years. Dr Hussain will become Vice-Chair of the Forum for the next year. Dr Cheetham will be Chair for the next two years.

The Christian Muslim Forum was founded in 2006 and aims to:

  • create spaces for Christians and Muslims to meet, learn about and understand each other
  • live faithfully with difference
  • heal relationships

We are committed to:

  • building strong personal relationships between Christians and Muslims, based on faith in God, and commitment to the common good
  • the essential participation of young people and women in inter faith activities
  • enabling the participation of believers from as many traditions as possible for successful Christian-Muslim

The Forum issued a groundbreaking Christmas statement in our first year and last year launched the Ethical Witness Guidelines and produced a booklet on Mosque-Church twinning.

A Christian-Muslim men’s retreat is planned in Wales for June 2010.  In addition in 2010 there will be London based campus encounters encouraging dialogue between Christian and Muslim students, groups for Christians and Muslims in London, and local and regional events in the Midlands.

Bishop Richard said, ‘It has been a pleasure to work as Vice-Chair for the past two years. I look forward to further developing the work of the Forum and continuing to build on Dr Hussain’s work. I hope that the Christian Muslim Forum will grow from strength to strength in helping to ensure a growth in positive relationships between Christians and Muslims.’

Bishop Richard is available for interview.

Other News from the Forum:

Seminar on Christian-Muslim Encounters, Daniel Edge’s recent experience in Paris
Ethical Witness Questions and Answers

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
Please support our Family and Community work with a donation

Attacks on Christians in Pakistan

The inhumane attacks on the homes of Pakistani Christians which resulted in the deaths of eight people is a major crime. Senior Muslim scholars from Pakistan personally known to me, have unambiguously condemned this as a serious crime, and a sin. They have shown their solidarity and extended hands of friendship to the bereaved Christian families. Amongst these scholars are the following: Pir Ameen al Hassanat, spiritual leader of the Chishtia order; Allama Syed Riaz Hussain Shah, President of Jammat ahl Sunna and Haji Fazal Karim. Our British charity Muslim Hands  has already visited the affected Christians to provide support to the victims and will continue to do so.

I would like the Pakistani High Commissioner in London to do two things to stop this kind of violence against minorities ever happening again:

1. Ensure that the police take seriously the issues of minorities and their treatment. This tragic incident could have been averted if the Pakistani police had taken notice of the Muslim-Christian tensions in the area.

2. Amend the blasphemy law so that it cannot be abused, or exploited, by extremists and others.

On behalf of British Muslims I urge the Pakistani government to take special measures to give respect and full rights, as well as protection, to our Christians neighbours.

I would also like to appeal to the British government to take positive action in promoting trust building and peace and reconciliation amongst Christians and Muslims in Pakistan.
Musharraf Hussain OBE, DL
Chair, Christian Muslim Forum

Archbishop of Canterbury’s statement, also Archbishop’s statement on recent violence against Christians in Nigeria

Islamic Society of North America’s statement

Make a donation to our ongoing bridge-building work, or to Muslim Hands or Christian Aid