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Archbishop hosted event in support of local encounter between Christians and Muslims

The Revd Mark Fisher, Andrew Stunell MP, Bishop Richard Cheetham, the Archbishop of Canterbury and Maulana Shahid Raza

Thursday 15th July 2010

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, hosted an event at Lambeth Palace which brought together 50 imams and clergy from 25 local areas to encourage and strengthen local inter faith relationships.

The event was supported by Mr Andrew Stunell, Parliamentary Under Secretary at the Department of Communities and Local Government who spoke to the participants:

"Across the country, Christians and Muslims are making huge contributions to their communities in countless churches and mosques, charities and community groups. But, because they are often working towards similar goals, there is great potential for them to collaborate more.

"That is what this conference is about – challenging ignorance and building effective, friendly working relationships, not only between clergy and imams but also between their congregations. Inter faith activity is an important component of the Big Society we want to build, in which people work together for the common good and to tackle shared problems."

The programme sought to celebrate and publicise the fruitful work done by these local dialogue groups, which are run by both mosques and churches in the local areas as well as in prison and hospital chaplaincies.

One example of the practical outworking of this is the Springfield Centre in Birmingham, a children's centre that serves both mosque and parish church, as well as the rest of the community. The centre provides holistic support for children's development and support to families with young children, as well as helping to foster local inter faith engagement.

Today's conference, which has been organised by the Christian Muslim Forum, provided an opportunity for many men and women from local churches and mosques to share their experiences of working with each other, and explore areas where they can work together locally on issues of shared concern.

The Christian Muslim Forum has brought together over 200 local leaders of both faiths since 2006 and will run the event in partnership with the Mosques and Imams National Advisory Board (MINAB) and Churches Together in England (CTE).

Participants have drafted a letter to go out to churches and mosques, encouraging leadership and congregations to meet and learn from each other.

The speeches

Bishop Richard CheethamBishop Richard Cheetham - Chair of the Christian Muslim Forum

Bishop Richard Cheetham introduces the event as a chance to build on the experience of the Imams and Ministers residential meetings which have taken place over the past four years. He describes the building of good relationships and understanding is "hugely important in our globalised and volatile world". 

Click dowlnoad on the right to listen to Bishop Richard Cheetham [3Mb]

The Archbishop of CanterburyThe Archbishop of Canterbury      

The Archbishop spoke of the significance for each religion of seeing the other taking God seriously – "their face turned towards God in prayer." "We can give thanks," he said, "for what the other is doing in community and for community".

Click download on the right to listen to the Archbishop of Canterbury [11Mb]


Maulana Shahid RazaMaulana Shahid Raza - Chair of the Mosques and Imams Advisory Board

Speaking also on communities, Maulana Shahid Raza described how worshipping God in a community is well defined in Islam. He also explained how practising Muslims "will never feel reluctant in engaging with other faith communities in initiatives where we can maintain that concept of a global family and the concept of engaging with communities".

Click download on the right to listen to Maulana Shahid Raza [12Mb]

Andrew Stunell - Parliamentary Under Secretary at the Department of Communities and Local Government

As a Minister responsible for Faith and Social Cohesion, Andrew Stunell spoke of the government's inter faith initiatives which help bind together local communities and improve relations. He also expressed how keen they are to encourage inter faith dialogue as it can produce "some very positive results for community cohesion and for the future health of our society". He announced that the Faith in Action Fund would be continued and that funding would be available for Inter Faith Week 2010.

Click download on the right to listen to Andrew Stunell [8Mb]

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