Interfaith day in Leeds
Nine of the world’s major faiths were on display in the centre of Leeds recently as part of national Inter-faith week.
Christians, Muslims and Jews stood side by side in the city’s Merrion Centre for a day of exhibitions, information, singing, prayer and demonstrations of worship.
The major event was opened by the Lord Mayor of Leeds and as well as singing from schools and groups there was an opportunity to experience prayer led by Muslims, Jews, Christians, Hindus and other faith communities of Leeds. Each of the faiths had displays about their beliefs and people to discuss and explain them.
The event was organized by Leeds Faiths Forum with nine of the different faith communities in Leeds meeting the public in the Merrion Centre.
Canon Charles Dobbin is the Inter Faith Relations Officer for the diocese, a one day a week post “to enable the Diocese to respond to the mission of God by engaging proactively with people of other Faiths”.
Charles writes, “Thispost is a recognition of the importance of relating to people of other faiths. Ever since the 7.7 bombings, civic and faith leaders have particularly recognised that we need to understand each other. Dialogue is needed if we are to understand each other. It is the least we can do if we are to observe the chief commandments to love God and to love our neighbour.
“Dialogue does not mean that we dilute the force of the Christian gospel. On the contrary, inter-faith dialogue only works if each side has a clear understanding and commitment in its faith.
Some feel a threat to their Christian identity in the recognition of people of other faiths like this. I would say that our identity is affirmed not by avoiding contact with others but by engaging with them.
People are engaged with inter faith issues in a number of areas of ministry. My work is to recognise that, support people in what they are already doing; and, where necessary, develop work which can strengthen the ministry and witness in the diocese.”
The Inter Faith Relations Officer
The responsibilities of the new post are principally to advise the Bishop; develop dialogue and research; monitor inter faith work; and resource congregations. This role is to be carried out with the support of the inter faith task group and in partnership with the Leeds Methodist District.
Much work is being done through the Inter Faith Task group, which Charles formerly chaired, to build awareness of inter faith issues and of the way the Church of England is responding to them.
2) A revised Inter Faith Strategy published in June 2011; the principle document is entitled An Inter Faith Strategy for the Churches.
The task group will, in conjunction with appropriate agencies, continue to produce resources for churches.
Initially the following topical leaflets are available:
May I Call You Friend
In Summer 2008 the diocese pioneered a new introductory course for inter-faith dialogue, “May I Call You Friend”, in partnership with Bradford Churches for Dialogue and Diversity. This 4-week course took place on an ecumenical basis in Alwoodley, Chapel Allerton, Leeds Parish Church, and Beeston. Some 100 people were involved. The booklet is available from the Diocesan resource centre.
Generous Love: the truth of the Gospel and the call to dialogue. An Anglican theology of inter faith relations. This report from the Anglican Communion Network for Inter Faith Concerns is also available from the resource centre.
It is important that we recognise the importance of issues raised in inter faith dialogue, and that we understand how best to address them. It is important also that we develop guidelines for this as a diocese, with a basic agreement on the principles by which we proceed. The process is ongoing and to that end, through the inter faith task group, the work continues, building on the experience of inter faith cooperation, discussion and reflection.
If you wish to respond to anything in this article or in connection with the events that are outlined please contact Charles Dobbin 0113 268 4598 e.mail firstname.lastname@example.org