Women’s interfaith network builds bridges amid Nigeria’s violence, Muslim and Christian mistrust

Peacebuilding1 cWhen Fatima Isiaka, a religious Muslim teacher, asked the cab driver to drop her off at St. Kizito Catholic Church in Abuja, the driver thought she was lost. “The cab man that took me to the church, a Muslim, was surprised to see me enter a church,” Isiaka recalled of the summer 2014 meeting. “He told me, ‘This is a church!’ I said, ‘Yes, I know.’ ”

Isiaka was part of innovative effort to bring Christian and Muslim women together in hopes of fostering religious tolerance and peaceful co-existence. The Women of Faith Peacebuilding Network was first started in 2011by Sr. Agatha Ogochukwu Chikelue, of the Daughters of Mary Mother of Mercy congregation, and local Muslim businesswoman Maryam Dada Ibrahim.

Isiaka, an observant Muslim who wears a grey jilbab, a long head covering and robe, the traditional dress of some Nigerian Muslim women, is a respected Muslim leader in Abuja. Today, she serves as deputy director in the network’s Abuja branch.

She looks back fondly on her time at the St. Kizito Catholic Church. “It was an amazing experience and I loved every bit of my stay there,” said Isiaka. “In fact, I found a place in the church where I performed ablution [ritual washing before Muslims prayer], to set up my mat and pray.”

Since the group started in 2011, the Women of Faith Peacebuilding Network’s activities have reached more than 10,000 Muslim and Christian women across the country through seminars, meditations, presentations by religious leaders, and dialogue.

The peacebuilding network also offers vocational training in catering, bead making, fashion design, and soap production to a smaller group of women who participate in the annual 21-day seminar. “The empowerment [training] serves as bait to lure more women to the network so that they’ll learn peaceful coexistence,” said Isiaka. The Swiss Embassy provided seed money to get the vocational training started in 2014. Cardinal John Onaiyekan’s Foundation For Peace (COFP), an organization working for peace in northern Nigeria, has sponsored the vocational training in subsequent years.

Sr. Agatha Chikelue started thinking about how to build bridges between Christians and Muslims in 2008, as northern Nigeria disintegrated into violence. Nigeria’s population is evenly divided with 48 percent Muslims and 49 percent Christians. Northern Nigeria is majority Muslim, while southern Nigeria is majority Christian. Ensuring equal Christian and Muslim political representation at local, state, and national levels is an especially sensitive subject.

FULL ARTICLE FROM GLOBAL SISTERS REPORT 

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Interfaith encounter at a mosque

bait-ul-futuh_mosque_in_londonIt started with our own curiosity. Every year at my church, St. Martin-in-the-Fields in central London, we have a fall lecture series. A parade of speakers, panels, and dialogues explores what we take to be the most pressing issues of our time. For the last few years, with series themes such as “Who is my neighbor?” and “Reformation,” we’ve felt the need to include a Muslim perspective. The great thing about inviting a speaker from a different social location is that it can draw in people who share that identity, and so we started to find a number of Muslims coming not just to the lectures given by a Muslim but to the other lectures as well.

And so it was that an invitation came for me to return the favor. A mosque in South London asked me to come and speak. We had decided our fall series theme for this year would be “Encounter,” and we had asked the usual pageant of distinguished speakers to come to St. Martin’s. But this year there was also something different: an opportunity to go to a mosque to­gether and not just talk about an encounter but actually have one.

“It’s the mosque,” he replied.

“But it’s huge,” I gasped.

“Oh yes, it’s the largest mosque in Western Europe. They get 14,000 people here for Eid and several thousand every Friday.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE CHRISTIAN CENTURY 

21 faith leaders for the 21st century – #Interfaith21

Dr_NAv7W4AAwbFm-1024x640Young Christians, Muslims and Jews at the forefront of interfaith cooperation in the UK are honoured today in a unique collaboration between media outlets from the three faiths.

British Muslim TVChurch Times and Jewish News, together with Coexist House, joined forces for the 21 for 21 project to identify inspiring individuals aged under 40 who are increasing dialogue and breaking down barriers – particularly as volunteers but also in their working lives.

 

It is believed this is the first time media outlets from different faiths have cooperated in such a way anywhere in the world. Communities Secretary James Brokenshire said: “At a time of concerns about antisemitism and Islamophobia, this initiative between media outlets of different faiths is more important than ever.

Despite the challenges, we have much to be proud of when it comes to the depth and breadth of interfaith cooperation in this country.  It is right we should celebrate those leading the way now and in the future.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM JEWISH NEWS (UK)

Muslim, Christian leaders share story of interfaith friendship

At the back of a banquet hall in New Hope Presbyterian Church beneath an illuminated stained-glass window, Dr. Bashar A. Shala brought his hands together in prayer, looked to the ceiling, spoke quietly and then knelt, bringing his head fully to the floor.

Shala recited in Arabic a verse from the Quran and then translated to a room of bowed heads. Pastor Steven Stone followed him with a Christian prayer, asking God to bless those gathered.

Shala, president of the Memphis Islamic Center in Tennesseee, and Stone, senior pastor of the Christian Heartstrong Church, also of Memphis, led the Castle Rock churchgoers in prayer during a lunchtime gathering following New Hope’s usual Oct. 14 service, then took questions from congregation members.

Both men have been awarded the Freedom of Worship Award from the Roosevelt Institute, the nonprofit partner of America’s first presidential library, the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library and Museum, and have been featured in national media outlets. Their mission, they said, is to encourage people throughout the U.S. to see past cultural and religious differences, to foster more curiosity between groups and diminish fear within people hesitant to build such relationships.

It’s a lesson they’ve preached for years through their own story of friendship.

Becoming, and loving, thy neighbor

Stone, Shala and their respective organizations built a national platform starting roughly nine years ago, as their relationship was first forming.

It began when Stone read a local media report about a group of Muslims who had purchased land to build an Islamic center across the street from his church, which he founded and has pastored for nearly 20 years.

Stone’s first reaction was rooted in fear and ignorance, he said. He didn’t know a single Muslim. He didn’t know if he should be concerned about another religious group so close by. So, he prayed.

Shala was among a committee and board searching for land to build a home for the Muslim community in Memphis — a place where they could worship and socialize.

“It was a post-9/11 world,” Shala said. “There were some struggles.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM HIGHLAND RANCH HERALD 

CHRISTIANS, MUSLIMS TO FORM ‘RINGS OF PEACE’ AROUND TORONTO-AREA SHULS

Rings-640x480Members of Toronto’s Muslim and Christian communities will be forming “rings of peace” around Toronto-area shuls this Shabbat, in a show of solidarity with the local Jewish community, in the wake of the shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. The gesture echoes the rings of peace formed around mosques in February 2017, following the shooting in Quebec City.

Rings of peace are formed by people holding hands in a circle around a place of worship. The idea was first brought to Toronto last year by Rabbi Yael Splansky of Holy Blossom Temple, who remembered seeing a photograph of Muslim people forming a ring of peace around a synagogue in Oslo that had been threatened. She contacted other Jewish leaders and suggested doing the same in Toronto.

Seven rings of peace were eventually formed by Jewish people and others who wanted to show their solidarity with the Muslim community. Rabbi Splansky was later asked to address the congregation at the Imdadul Islamic Centre. She was the first woman and the first Jew to be invited into the sanctuary where the men pray.

“I told them they were right to come to Canada and to know they would be protected and would have freedom of religion here,” said Rabbi Splansky. “That was a very meaningful day. We never forgot it and they never forgot it.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE CANDIAN JEWISH NEWS 

‘We’re all children of Abraham’: The patriarch that unites Jews, Christians and Muslims

588e7b72a77c8.imageIn preparation for Sunday’s sermon, the Rev. Cress Darwin reviews the biblical book of Genesis.

He finds the story where God orders Abraham to leave his home and promises him numerous descendants comparable to the sand on the seashore and stars in the sky.

Darwin, who leads Second Presbyterian Church in Charleston, admires Abraham for his obedience and faithfulness.

“The hope that I take is that if God can use some of these characters, he can certainly use us,” Darwin said.

Abraham isn’t only revered by Christians. He’s a central figure in Judaism and Islam as well.

While the faiths are unique in their religious beliefs, customs and practices, Abraham is the common forefather that shows the religions have a lot more in common than what some may think.

Abraham is considered the patriarch of monotheism. According to the story recorded in Jewish, Christian and Islamic texts, he was instructed by God to leave his native land where his family worshipped pagan gods.

Texts say that Abraham had two sons, Ishmael and Isaac. The former founded the Arab people from which the Prophet Muhammad came and founded the Islamic faith. From the latter, Judaism manifested and Jesus Christ is eventually born thousands of years later to initiate Christianity.

The faiths draw spiritual lessons from their elder who endured tests that challenged his commitment to God, including his willingness to sacrifice his son.

For Jews, he’s revered for his obedience. Christians say he was faithful like Jesus Christ. Muslims honor him for his submissiveness.

FULL ARTICLE FROM POST AND COURIER 

Project launched to improve ties between Christians, Muslims and police

Bright yellow jackets worn for high visibility.Thu 04 Oct 2018

By Eno Adeogun

A new project is trying to get Christians, Muslims and people of other religions working together more closely to tackle crime.

Faith and Police Together wants to see more projects like the Street Pastors initiative – which help make our streets safer.

Paul Blakey MBE is a Christian and one of the founders.

He told Premier’s News Hour the group wants to promote good work the Church is already doing.

“As a Church, as Christians, we’re really good at engaging with our police,” he said.

“In some way we need to kind of support and celebrate and encourage and equip other faith communities to do similar things.”

The new initiative has identified addiction, homelessness, youth related crime and loneliness as four priority areas to concentrate on and to encourage faith communities to engage with over the next year.

Deputy Chief Constable for Devon and Cornwall Paul Netherton said in a statement: “Often faith groups have a high motivation to help within our society but sometimes don’t know how they can help or even how they talk to the police to find out what the problems are or how they can assist.

“My experience of working with groups and churches is that once you start the conversations you unlock massive social capital that can transform an area or make a real difference to a problem.

“This is a great initiative and is welcomed by the police and will lead to some transformational change to some of the most challenging social issues across the country.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM PREMIER (UK)