London Leaders Day 2
- Created on Monday, 18 June 2012 13:26
I felt that the mutual and honest friendship of the speakers on the first day, as well as the Conversations for the Soul workshop led to a beautiful and enriching day two, starting with scriptural discussion with Ajmal Masroor and Toby Howarth.
Around Jacob’s Well
The theme was neighbours and friendship.
Ajmal quoted a verse from the Quran, “It is not righteousness that you turn your faces towards the East and the West, but righteousness is this that one should believe in Allah […] and gives away wealth out of love for Him to the near of kin and the orphans and the needy and the wayfarer and the beggars and for (the emancipation of) the captives, and keep up prayer and pay the poor-rate; and the performers of their promise when they make a promise, and the patient in distress and affliction and in time of conflicts—these are they who are true (to themselves) and these are they who guard (against evil).” (2.177)
Toby shared the story of Jesus at the well, from John’s Gospel, Chapter 4. Jesus makes himself vulnerable to a Samaritan woman, by speaking to her and being dependent on her. She also makes herself vulnerable by talking to him. In this story, Jesus makes contact with someone different from him, a Samaritan, seen by the Jews at the time to be inferior people. Jewish pilgrims used to take another route to reach Judaea, to avoid contact with the Samaritans and mixing with them. However Jesus shows leadership through that story, by encouraging others to be vulnerable and therefore break down barriers.
Both stories are about being close to others, being available to one another, true sharing of good natures, wealth and character, responsibility and concern for others, especially neighbours. There can be fear of embracing one another, however if we have faith we can share of our wealth, knowledge and character without fear of losing or compromising anything.
After the scriptural reading and discussions, we had a presentation about the Women’s Inter Faith Network. Dr Suman Datta told us about their work and how women’s work and projects can be special in bringing people together and building community cohesion and friendship between individuals.
Breaks are always good times for more discussions and informal conversations between participants. After that, Fr Nadim and Ajmal discussed the practical challenges to inter faith.
Fr Nadim said that it is important to distinguish the fundamentals of our faith: “If I leave a thing out and religion collapses, then it’s a fundamental of religion, however if religion doesn’t collapse by leaving that thing out then it’s not a fundamental.” We need to understand what is a fundamental of our faith. The three levels of faith that he mentioned were interesting, not only for faith but also inter faith work:
- Instinct (gut): having a passion;
- Mind: being intellectual;
- Heart: emotions and love for faith.
This is one of the challenges: to keep with faith in all these three levels. Often faith or political leaders and others stir one or more of these levels to arrive to their aim, which followers need to be aware of. The challenges then would be to understand our faith and to understand our relationship to our faith and on which level(s) it is.
Ajmal said that one of the biggest challenges is honesty. Honesty lies at the core of all we do, to ourselves and others. We have to accept each other, not just tolerate. He gave the example of Imam Ashafa and Pastor Wuye - we watched and discussed the documentary the Imam & the Pastor the night before, they both said they love each other and would like the other to convert. They both said this with honesty, which is essential for building trust. Honesty requires safe space and respect. He asked how we can develop that for the benefit of the community, and build trust. He pointed out that we have at times created a false space: a space for our ego and not a real space for one another, this ego leads to lack of hospitality and makes us deaf.
The discussion after the speeches was about nurturing all levels of faith (gut, mind and heart), being aware of other’s agenda, being proactive and not waiting for the clergy in matters such as intra-faith or inter faith, intra-difficulties within a faith being a barrier to look further; we need to recognise our difficulties and problems and be able to exercise them.
Action Planning: NN Grants
Tim Clapton, Near Neighbours coordinator, gave an insight about the Near Neighbours programme, what it wants to achieve, the grants available, eligibility and criteria. Different ideas emerged at the session; including:
- Jubilee Debt Campaign
- graffiti session for people of different faiths
- Muslim women being invited to a church
- an intergenerational project
- sharing Iftar with Christians during Ramadan
- Muslims and Christians jointly celebrating Harvest
Participants also had the chance to speak to Tim and ask further questions about the application and how to fill it in.
The majority of attendees said that the event met their expectations. “Really interesting material. Excellent to have the chance to meet such a great range of people and hear from really thought-provoking speakers.” Many participants asked for more time: Give more time for discussions, networking, workshops and perhaps add an extra day to the residential. It was really encouraging for me to know that everyone enjoyed and learnt from the residential and wanted more time to discuss and work together.
Participants said they would incorporate some of the tools in their work; such as Conversations for the Soul and the Imam & the Pastor documentary.
When asked which parts of the event were more useful, there was a range of answers - enjoying the action planning for Near Neighbours project, speeches, discussions, meal times, Conversations for the Soul, networking - “Enjoyed engaging academically in the texts.”
A final comment from one of the participants: “As an inter faith worker, my inter faith encounters are very business-like. It is therefore refreshing to return to genuine, appreciative encounter to ‘top-up’ my motivation.”
The two days were very rich, useful and inspiring. Looking forward to the future activities! We concluded with a prayer, under the sunny sky of 22nd May.
Near Neighbours Project Worker
Note: Report from Day 1