Posts Tagged ‘travel’

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

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