John Woodhouse (Westminster Cathedral Interfaith Group) writes . .
We met at South London Islamic Centre in a converted fire station near St Leonard’s Streatham. Mr Mohamed Ijaz provided sandwiches and tea and Zahra Imame from the Christian Muslim Forum set the ground rules and facilitated our conversations. The idea is to talk in pairs about subjects from the St Ethelburga’s booklet. There is a wide choice ranging from food to more difficult issues like faith and violence and the topic is chosen by your partner and yourself. There is no need to feedback from the conversations which are confidential.
A month later we met again and this time we were joined by a Buddhist. Through him we were able to organise to meet at the SGI-UK Buddhist South London National Centre, 1 Bernays Grove, Brixton SW2, on June 26th and July 3rd. The plan is to return to a South London mosque in the autumn.
I have taken part in these conversations at Bethnal Green, the Whitechapel Idea Store and St Ethelburga’s. The booklet is excellent and offers a lot of choice and I have found the conversations most stimulating. Pope Francis says in Evangelium gaudii The Joy of the Gospel (which is very well worth reading and an easy read)
“Interreligious dialogue is a necessary condition for peace in the world, and so it is a duty for Christians as well as other religious communities. This dialogue is in the first place a conversation about human existence or simply, as the bishops of India have put it, a matter of ‘being open to them, sharing their joys and sorrows’. In this way we learn to accept others and their different ways of living, thinking and speaking. We can then join one another in taking up the duty of serving justice and peace…. These efforts can also express love for truth”. (para 250)
It took a lot of negotiating and patience to set up these conversations and the help and support of the Christian Muslim Forum and the South London Inter Faith Group were vital. I came away stimulated and inspired by the encounters. John Woodhouse