Hosted and chaired by Bishop Patrick McKinney of Nottingham, who is the Bishops’ Conference lead on inter religious dialogue, this event brought diocesan co-ordinators together to share stories, discuss ideas for future activities and engage with speakers from other faith groups – on this occasion, mostly from Islam.
We heard about peace walks, prayer walks and faith pilgrimages; events around environmental issues; work supporting the more vulnerable in our communities; study days about dialogue; and even a play, Pierre et Mohamed, about Bl. Pierre Claverie and his Muslim driver and friend Mohamed Bouchikhi who were assassinated in Algeria in 1996.
We heard too about the Church’s teaching on dialogue, for example Vatican II’s Nostra Aetate, the document Dialogue and Proclamation (1991), our own Bishops’ Meeting God in Friend and Stranger and most recently the joint declaration on Human Fraternity made by Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar in February this year.
External speakers told us about projects centred on housing, education and health issues in Leicester, about the development of Leicester Citizens which, as part of the Citizens UK movement, is bringing people of all faiths and none together to address concerns and challenges facing the city and about the Church Mosque twinning project, a national body which helps churches and mosques in the same neighbourhood to work together on their own local issues.
A panel event chaired by Bishop Patrick on Tuesday evening formed part of Inter Faith Week in Leicester and brought together Christian, Hindu, Muslim and Sikh speakers to address the theme ‘Will Faith(s) save the world?’ in front of an audience of delegates and the general public.
The panellists and audience shared their own stories and all stressed that it is their religious faith that supports their actions. They spoke movingly about the confidence faith has given them to challenge and engage with a variety of troubling issues, about the need to listen to those who are ‘other’, about the relationship between love of God and love of neighbour, how faith can help us find friendship in difference and use this to work for a better world.
In our own diocese, as in others, there are many Catholics working in partnership with other people of faith; listening to their stories and telling them ours, learning about their teachings and customs and explaining ours, becoming friends as well as neighbours. Bishop Patrick said: ‘If I neglect the other I neglect Christ – that is our driver’: words to reflect on as we approach Advent and the feast of Christmas.
Brian Keegan and Priscilla Barlow are members of the Inter Religious sub-group of East Anglia’s Commission for Dialogue and Unity. To find out more about this work in the diocese please contact Brian Keegan at email@example.com or Priscilla Barlow at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pictured above is Bishop Patrick McKinney with a panel of speakers from different faith groups in Leicester.