Christian, Muslim and Jewish groups join together for ’21 for 21′ interfaith collaboration

religionChristian, Muslim and Jewish groups have joined together to celebrate the way young people are promoting interfaith collaboration.

In a world first, three media outlets serving the three Abrahamic faiths have joined forces to set up the 21 for 21 project, which is aimed at finding “21 leaders for the 21st century”.

The project is looking for 21 young people who have made a significant difference to understanding and cooperation between people of different faiths.

“There is a widely held perception that faith communities in this country and elsewhere are in constant conflict. I think that’s actually not the case,” Justin Cohen, the news editor at Jewish News who set up the project, told The Independent.

He said although there were examples of spikes in community tension, “particularly at times of conflict in the Middle East”, overall relations between communities in the UK are “a beacon, an example, for other communities in other countries”.

The project, he said, was “an example and a way of highlighting that as well as celebrating young people who are the future of interfaith understanding and cooperation in the UK.”

The 21 young people – seven Christians, seven Muslims and seven Jews – will be chosen from a range of nominees.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE INDEPENDENT (UK)

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How did Victorian Muslims celebrate Christmas?

e8044ae19f00415c934078617b3365b9_18At 6am on December 25, 1888, the winter sun was yet to rise over the English city of Liverpool.

A Victorian terrace house was feverish with activity.

The soft glow of candlelight emanating from 8 Brougham Terrace revealed men and women busily putting up decorations and preparing food for the big celebration ahead, Christmas Day.

In one corner, a familiar Victorian scene of a woman playing the piano and directing hymn rehearsals, the singers’ voices muted by the howling of a bitter northeasterly wind as it rattled the thin panes of glass.

This was Britain’s first mosque and Muslim community preparing for their very first Christmas Day.

At 8am, having led the tiny congregation in the early morning prayer, the Imam finally opened the mosque doors.

Imam William Henry “Abdullah” Quilliam founded the mosque after embracing Islam in 1887, aged 31 years old.

He was greeted by more than 100 of the city’s poor, who had been invited to enjoy a charitable Christmas breakfast inside what locals called “Islam Church”.

FULL ARTICLE FROM AL JAZEERA

Muslims and Christians team up to help homeless

muslims-and-christiansFaith groups are working together to care for street sleepers and other vulnerable people in the run-up to Christmas.

Muslim and Christian groups in Britain are joining forces to help the country’s homeless and other vulnerable groups during the Christmas period.

Organisations including Muslim Aid, the Al-Khair Foundation, Streetlytes, and churches across the English capital of London are expanding their efforts by providing meals and shelter packs to rough sleepers.

Their aim is to make sure those most in need are protected from cold weather and hunger during the holidays when many shops and services are closed or operating at reduced capacity.

More than 100 homeless people attended a Christmas dinner event organised by the groups at the Church of St Stephen and St Thomas in Shepherd’s Bush, west London.


READ MORE: UK families open doors to refugees


Alongside the seasonal staple of Turkey, volunteers dished out servings of South Asian dishes such as biryani.

“As Muslims, Islam teaches us that we can’t go to bed on a full stomach while our neighbour goes hungry,” said the Al-Khair Foundation’s Syed Hussain, as he managed a stall stacked with containers full of food.

“We’re working with people of all different backgrounds to show that Muslims care and we want to solve the problems facing everyone, not just our own.”

Streetlytes volunteer Chris Hatch, a Presbyterian priest, explained that while many of those working to help the homeless were religious, the project was not “inherently faith-based”.

FULL ARTICLE FROM AL JAZEERA 

‘Good Muslims’ or ‘Good citizens’: how Muslim women feel about integration

UK muslimsA great many things have been said about Muslims as UK citizens, mainly by non-Muslims. The prime minister, David Cameron, believes that if more Muslim women became proficient in English, for example, it would help beat extremism and terrorism. Meanwhile, Trevor Phillips, the former chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, says that UK Muslims “See the world differently from the rest of us”.

Phillips also presented a controversial Channel 4 programme called What British Muslims Really Think, which put across the message that Muslims are more conservative than the majority population and don’t want to integrate into wider society.

The debate is often highly intemperate – and both Muslim and non-Muslim voices alike have suggested it contributes to further stigmatisation of an already marginalised and disadvantaged Muslim population. In this highly politicised climate, the relationship between Islam and citizenship has also come under scrutiny by Citizens UK, a charitable voluntary organisation with churches, mosques and unions among its members.

In July 2015, Citizens UK launched its Commission on Islam, Participation and Public Life headed by conservative MP Dominic Greave. Greave somewhat unfortunately framed the Commission’s work as aiming to “help tackle extremism”.

The commission is holding a series of public hearings throughout the UK, asking Muslims to speak about barriers to their participation in society but also asking how “the Muslim community” can improve its participation. Although commendable for speaking with and soliciting views from Muslims around the country, there is also a problem with the approach chosen by Citizens UK, in that it only focuses on the Muslim population. In a febrile political atmosphere, it risks legitimising the isolation of Islamic faith and the prejudiced idea that Muslim citizens in Britain are uniquely problematic and a “one-voice” community.

FULL ARTICLE FROM UK ECONOTIMES 

Islam’s ability to empower is a magnet to black British youths

Muslims pray at the Central London mosqueA seminar was hosted last month by Christians Together in England to consider ways to “stem the flight of black British youths to Islam and radicalisation”. In an unprecedented move, Muslims were invited to attend – and they did. Together, both faith groups discussed the reasons why a growing number of young black people are choosing Islam in preference to Christianity. According to this morning’s BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, one in nine black Christian men are converting to Islam.

Following in my father’s footsteps, I was raised as a Roman Catholic and attended Sunday mass regularly as a child. I also attended a Roman Catholic secondary school – initially a cultural shock as I found myself the only black student among a predominantly white class. The religious focus of the school was, however, a refreshing contrast to my urban, street background. Teachers and students were more serious about God than at my previous schools. A student was not considered “nerdy” or “odd” due to their religiosity. I was therefore able to excel in religious studies and was successful in my final O-level exam.

During these lessons, the more we learned about religion, the more we questioned and challenged particular concepts, particularly relating to Christianity. Questions about the concept of the trinity – the Godhead being three in one – caused many debates as some of us; myself and others did not find this logical or feasible. Our religious studies teacher became exasperated by persistent questions on this topic, and arranged for the local priest to attend and address the question. His explanations did little to remove our doubts in this very fundamental and important area of faith.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE GUARDIAN 

Christians, Muslims, and Jesus by Mona Siddiqui

DSCF3120Ursula King hails a committed effort to advance interfaith relations

For a Muslim writer to seek new forms of dialogue between Christians and Muslims is an audacious venture. Mona Siddiqui, the well-known academic, broadcaster and interfaith practitioner from the University of Edinburgh, has dared to go where others fear to tread. Only recently an eminent Vatican representative still took the view that there can be no theological dialogue with Islam. Yet it is precisely such theologicaldialogue that Siddiqui wishes to encourage. She does so with admirable empathy and a detailed knowledge of Islamic and Christian theological texts, offering an exemplary model of how courageously creative dialogues might be constructed and a new model of interfaith relations advanced.

Christians and Muslims have interacted for more than 14 centuries with shifting political allegiances, violent conquests and varying responses on both sides. Given our globally pluralistic world, with many Muslims settled in the West, there is a growing need for more conciliatory dialogue and mutual understanding of each other’s differences. Siddiqui’s approach is unusual in setting aside the wider socio-political context of Christian-Muslim encounters in order to focus directly, with deep personal commitment to her own faith, on the most difficult theological issues that divide the two faiths. She skilfully relates Christian doctrinal arguments to the thinking of Islamic philosophers, theologians and Sufi poets to dismantle past misconceptions based on prejudice and ignorance, preparing the way for a more appreciative mutual understanding between these two very different faith communities.

FULL ARTICLE FROM TIMES HIGHER EDUCATION (UK)