"I worship Jesus Christ, whom we Christians consider to be the Prince of Peace. As a Jew, he taught us to cross religious boundaries, in service and in love. He repeatedly reached out and embraced Roman conquerors, other Gentiles, and even the more despised Samaritans.
Despite theological differences, all great religions share common commitments that define our ideal secular relationships. I am convinced that Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Jews, and others can embrace each other in a common effort to alleviate human suffering and to espouse peace.
But the present era is a challenging and disturbing time for those whose lives are shaped by religious faith based on kindness toward each other. We have been reminded that cruel and inhuman acts can be derived from distorted theological beliefs, as suicide bombers take the lives of innocent human beings, draped falsely in the cloak of God's will. With horrible brutality, neighbors have massacred neighbors in Europe, Asia, and Africa.
In order for us human beings to commit ourselves personally to the inhumanity of war, we find it necessary first to dehumanize our opponents, which is in itself a violation of the beliefs of all religions. Once we characterize our adversaries as beyond the scope of God's mercy and grace, their lives lose all value. We deny personal responsibility when we plant landmines and, days or years later, a stranger to us - often a child – is crippled or killed. From a great distance, we launch bombs or missiles with almost total impunity, and never want to know the number or identity of the victims." Jimmy Carter
As we approach Christmas, when we remember and look forward to the arrival of the Prince of Peace, let us be challenged to cross religious boundaries in service and in love. Just as Jesus did. Let us see Immanuel, 'God with us', in the faces, the humanity, of those who are different in order that we might be bringers of peace.
Over 80 people attended our Crossing Thresholds conference where we invited clergy and church leaders from across the Diocese of Leeds to explore better interfaith relations. Led by Faithful Neighbours, our partner Presence & Engagement centres, Bishop Jonathan Gibbs and Bishop Toby Howarth we had discussions around:
This was my first conference with the Presence and Engagement Group. Sam Wells paper on Mystery and not Problem has stayed with me several days later, and it was great to see Jonathan Clark, who taught me liturgy many years ago, spoke passionately about migrants and Immigration. I didn’t know many people, and was delighted to see I was not on my own in promoting positive relationships between the faith communities around me, and that there are a number of faithful and dedicated practitioners all working in the same field.
For many in attendance the DIFA conference is a regular event, but among them were a few, like me, for whom this occasion was a first. We arrived uncertain of what we were stepping into, and a little overawed by the venue. Questions, such as, ‘exactly what is Presence and Engagement all about?’, and, ‘what, if any, is to be our role within it?’, foremost in our minds.
During the morning session the Reverend Dr Samuel Wells addressed the question, ‘What does it mean to be with people of other faiths?’ His description of the dimensions of ‘Being with’ others was compelling: the starting place being, ‘mystery’, a place which is beyond thinking that we’ll know what we’ll find there. This type of meeting has the potential of being able to delight in the other and being open to receiving a gift from them. A gift which enriches our own faith. Samuel spoke of the journey of the Wise men, which took them first to Jerusalem, and then on to Bethlehem. In Jerusalem they received knowledge of the one they were looking for, but they did not discover who He was until they looked upon him in Bethlehem. Our journey together needs to take us to Bethlehem, for it is through Bethlehem that the glory of Jesus is revealed, both to us as Christians, and to those of other faiths.
If there is truth in what Samuel says, then the challenge to the church is to consider and discover meeting places of ‘mystery’ as we engage with those of other faiths in our parishes. We are challenged to find practical ways of walking the hidden route to Bethlehem with them, rather than the well-trodden path to Jerusalem.
The Parish Church of St Paul Manningham
A week in religious politics is a very long time as shouts of acclamation turn to calls for execution - more details in world's bestseller
Script from Sam Wells talk to Interfaith Advisors - see Faithful Neighbours Resources page
What did you say? Meaning, Misunderstandings and Motivation
at Rochdale Pioneer Museum
31 Toad Lane Rochdale, Lancashire, OL12 0NU
Today - West Yorkshire & Dales Diocesan Headteacher's Conference at Harrogate - Faithful Neighbours works through Churches, Schools and Chaplaincies
Congratulations to Leeds Catalyst Graduates Imam Adam and Rev Heston on the collaborative work featured on West Yorks & Dales website - and well done to Heston's church All Hallows, Leeds on becoming the first church to sign up as a Faithful Neighbours Partner