01 April 2011

Church must challenge extremism, Inter-faith conference told

Bishop Trevor Williams and the Revd Dr Keith Scott, rector of Rathkeale, Diocese of Limerick, are pictured outside the Masjid Umar mosque in Leicester during the Church of Ireland inter-faith visit to the city. (Photo: Patrick Comerford)

Today’s edition of the Church of Ireland Gazette [1 April 2011] carries the above photograph and the following half-page report on page 3:

The Archbishop of Dublin-designate, the Rt Revd Dr Michael Jackson, and the Bishop of Limerick and Killaloe, the Rt Revd Trevor Williams, recently led a group of more than 12 people from six Church of Ireland dioceses in an inter-faith training programme based at the St Philip’s Centre in Leicester.

Leicester has a population of almost 300,000 people – and the fourth smallest Anglican cathedral in England. It has a large population of South Asian origin, with well-known Muslim, Sikh, Jain, Hindu and Jewish places of worship, with immigrant groups making up about 40% of the population, it is said Leicester is one of the most ethnically diverse cities in Great Britain.

The Church of Ireland visitors heard from the Bishop Leicester, the Rt Revd Tim Stevens, that Leicester Cathedral had played an “iconic and pivotal role in praying for the peace of the city,” when the far-right English Defence league held a major demonstration in the city last October.

Bishop Stevens said he believed the “great enemy is complacency,” adding: “Political extremism is posing as the true voice of English Christianity, and we need to understand the Biblical foundations for resisting racism and countering far-right extremist political parties … bishops need to be more proactive … there is a danger of thinking everything all right when it is probably not so, he warned.

Bishop William shared with the group’s hosts the experiences of facing up to sectarianism in his work in the Corrymeela Community in Co Antrim, as incumbent of a parish in North Belfast, and through his involvement in the Hard Gospel project. In combatting sectarianism, “we must risk vulnerability one step at a time,” he said.

A panel of local speakers shared with the group their experiences of working and building relationships in a multi-faith society.

The Church of Ireland group also visited a Church of England school, where up to 30 per cent of the children were Muslim, and 20 per cent Hindu, as well as the Masjid Umar, one of the most prominent mosques in Leicester, and the Shree Sanatan Mandir, a large Hindu temple in a former Baptist Church; it also had discussions with leading members of Leicester’s Sikh community in the Amritsar restaurant.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Like many people, I suspect, when I hear things like "we need to understand the Biblical foundations for resisting racism and countering far-right extremist political parties" it is an instant turn-off.

The problem is the word 'Biblical'.

If Christianity is the search for truth through a trinitarian perspective, then the Bishops statement without 'Biblical' in there would be much better.

A Christian understanding would not exclude any Biblical inferences, but the Bishop seems to be limiting himself to some sort of Bible-focussed review.