All posts by Tony Reese

Report on the International Conference on Cohesive Societies

Marcus Braybrooke recently visited Singapore for the International Conference on Cohesive Societies.
He reports:
'Many Communities, One Shared Future': Singapore 19-21 June
King Abdullah II says interfaith is top priority

'Every global challenge in this 21st century demands that we resist hatred and exclusion,' King Abdullah II of Jordan said in his opening address to last week’s International Conference on Cohesive Societies (ICCS), held last week in Singapore, 'Economic growth, peacemaking, protecting the environment, global security, inclusive opportunity—all these critical goals require that people of faith cooperate, and combine our strengths to our common benefit. The vast majority of people on earth are members of a spiritual community. Each has its own traditions and convictions. But our world religions also have something profound in common—the commandment to show compassion and respect for others.'

The King denounced those 'who preach a hate-filled message about Islam.' Hate speech and violence is a threat to all humanity, he said, and this is why interfaith co-operation should be a top priority.

The President of Singapore - the world’s most diverse society - stressed the importance that the government attached to social cohesion. The thousand participants from across the world saw many good examples of this.

Karen Armstrong, a historian of World Religions, Lord Alderdice, Marcus Braybrooke, President of the World Congress of Faiths and some members of the Faith and Belief Forum, who took part in the programmes for young people, were among those from Britain who participated.

See further www.rsis.edu.sg

Interfaith is not about ‘sameness.’

Marcus Braybrooke wrote to the Church Times:

Sir,

'Religions meet,' Evelyn Underhill wrote in her book on Mysticism, 'where religions take their source: in God.'

For many of the pioneers of the interfaith movement, it was an overwhelming sense of God's universal love that motivated them. They recognised that no language or creed can fully describe the Holy One - they are at best like fingers pointing at the moon. They discovered too that a sharing 'in the cave of their heart' of each other’s different faith and practice was mutually enriching. It also inspired them to work together for a world society committed to non-violence, in which no one is homeless or hungry, and the natural world is treasured.

Such an approach is not, as the Revd Dr Yazid Said suggests an imposition of 'sameness', but a growing discovery of  the unbounded love of God for every person and for all life.

Yours respectfully

Marcus Braybrooke

March 2019 Newsletter

At the end of last year, WCF invited responses to a survey to find out more about what its members and friends would like from the organisation and valued about it.  One matter we noted was an interest in receiving more interfaith comment and news from us, so we have decided to produce a short newsletter on a quarterly basis.  The first one of 2019 is here.  Do let me know if you have any ideas for future issues, and send me items and news you would like us to include.  The next deadline is 10 May for the early June issue. Thank you.

Our newsletter is here

Implications of Artificial Intelligence

Our member Pejman Khojasteh will be speaking at the Ian Ramsey Centre Summer Conference entitled Religion, Society and the Science of Life  on the subject of  the developments in artificial intelligence based on biotechnology and the implications with regard to religion and society.

Details of the Conference in Oxford are at www.ianramseycentre.info/conferences/2017-religion-society-science-life.html.

The abstract of Pejman's lecture is here

 

Arabic calligraphy inspiring global themes – Swadeka Ahsun

Meretz UK hosts award-winning international artist and campaigner, Swadeka Ahsun, on Saturday 20 May. WCF member Swadeka will display and also discuss her creations, whiarabic lettering_edited-1ch are inspired by Arabic calligraphy, Islamic culture, Western art history and natural scenes.

Contributions £7; refreshments served

Islamic artwork

Born in Mauritius, Swadeka lives in Belsize Square, NW3, and has exhibited throughout the UK, Europe, Middle East and the Gulf. Among numerous honours she has won the Muslim News Award 2016 and the Alhamra Award. She is a member of the Royal Society of Art and the Arab Jewish Forum. Swadeka currently supports EU projects as a partner in Creative Europe; she also serves as an outreach artist for the Queen’s Gurkha Logistic Regiment at Aldershot, Hampshire.

 

http://www.meretz.org.uk/event/arabic-calligraphy-inspiring-global-themes-swadeka-ahsun/

The Qur’an in a Cathedral

Marcus Braybrooke writes:

It is sad that the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity has been overshadowed by criticism of the reading of a passage of the Qur’an in St Mary’s Cathedral in Glasgow. The more so because Abbḗ Paul Couturier, the founder of the week of Prayer for Christian Unity grew up in Algeria, where he had many contacts with Muslims.

During the Epiphany service at the Cathedral a Muslim law student was invited to read the Qur’anic account of the birth of Jesus, which also says, as Muslims believe, that Jesus was a prophet but not divine. The Provost of the Cathedral, who has since had many abusive online messages, said that the event reflected ‘’deepening friendship locally which had led to greater awareness of the things we hold in common and to dialogue about the ways in which we differ.”

Strong criticism of the event was voiced by Revd Dr Ashenden, a Chaplain to the Queen (although he has subsequently resigned the position) in a letter to the Times, to which I wrote this reply, which was published.

Sir,

It is well known that the Qur'an rejects the divinity of Jesus, but it needs to be better known that the Qur'an gives many honourable titles to Jesus. He is regarded with reverence by many Muslims, who add 'May God bless Him' whenever they mention his name. Professor S Vahiduddin, a former head of the Indian Institute of Islamic Studies in New Delhi, wrote, "Christ reflects in every act God's beauty: He is the embodiment of that tender aspect of the divine which Qur'an calls 'Mercy.'"

In making friends with people of other faiths, I have found it more helpful, while respecting our differences, to start with what we share. I was glad two years ago to be invited to a Muslim celebration of Christmas.

Persecution of Christians has been condemned by a large number of Muslim leaders. In 2015, for example, more than 500 Muslim students, who belong to the NGO Bargad, held a protest march and have taken positive steps to protect Christians from abuse.

When I lectured at the Muslim College in Ealing, I asked if I might give the students copies of the Bible. The suggestion was warmly welcomed and the College offered to pay for them.

--
Marcus
Rev Dr Marcus Braybrooke, 17 Courtiers Green, Clifton Hampden, Abingdon, OX14 3EN 01865 407566 www.marcusbraybrooke.com

‘All I have is a voice…’

Marcus Braybrooke writes:

The courage of Lamiya Hajj Bashar and the cruelty she suffered was vividly described by Ian Birrell in The Mail on Sunday (8.1.17). It prompted me to write to the Mail, which published my letter, urging people of all faiths to defend the rights of minorities.

Lamiya is a member of the Yazidi faith, who grew up in a Yazidi village near Kocho in northern Iraq. When IS took over the village, residents were told to convert or die. All the men and boys were slaughtered in the streets. Unmarried women and teenagers were forced to become sex slaves – their sufferings were horrific. The older women were shot dead.

Lamiya made repeated efforts to escape. Brought before a sharia court, she was told by the judge that either they had to kill her or cut off a foot to stop her escaping. Lamiya replied: ‘If you cut off one foot, then I will escape on the other.’

Eventually she did escape, although she was injured by an explosion.

Other minorities are endangered. Open Doors recent World Watch estimates that last year 1,207 Christians were killed for their faith and Christians are at risk in 38 countries – more than ever before. (Church Times 13.1.17).

People of faith should speak out in defence of all persecuted minorities, not just members of their own religion.

It is easy to feel helpless. “All I have is a voice,” as the poet W.H Auden wrote at the beginning of World War II. We should use it, like him, to affirm that ‘We must love one another or die.” His poem ends with these words

Defenceless under the night

Our world in stupor lies;

Yet, dotted everywhere,

Ironic points of light

Flash out wherever the Just

Exchange their messages:

May I, composed like them

Of Eros and of dust,

Beleaguered by the same

Negation and despair,

Show an affirming flame.