Opening speech at the first Imam and Christian clergy’s conference

We praise our Lord the Merciful the Beneficent and we send blessings upon all his Prophets.

My first duty is to thank you all for enthusiastically responding to our call to attend this conference. I would like to also thank the Director of Christian Muslim forum Julian Bond for his exemplary commitment and organisational skills. Over the past six months he has worked with boundless energy and enthusiasm single handedly on this project. May God bless him.

In the wake of 7/7 and all the dangers that accompany a polarised them and us outlook on our society it is imperative for Christian and Muslim leaders to display a dynamic spirit of open mindedness cooperation and friendship. Infact our religious traditions and teachings expect this from us. They offer us resources for building mutual trust. Deeply embedded at the heart of our spiritual traditions are found the values of peace, compassion, generosity, humility, patience, forgiveness and love.

As ministers and Imams we are the practioners and the teachers of these moral virtues as well as the spiritual directors. People have high expectations of us, to use a cliché they want to see us “ walk the talk” and “be the change you want to see in the world”.

This can only happen if we make efforts to understand one another’s beliefs, culture and spirituality. The purpose of this conference is to create a space for a dialogue, a space for the encounter of two great faiths.

There are four types of Dialogues:

1) Discursive: This is the intellectual and scholarly meeting of the religious scholars.

2) Human encounter: ordinary believes in their everyday life having encounters in a variety of places.

3) Secular: Discussing matters of social concerns and sharing the common purpose.

4) Interior: Recognising the spiritual and the inner dimension of religion.

In this conference you will encounter all these forms of dialogue. There will be ample opportunities for both formal and informal meetings. As being „the men of pulpits‟ and “men of sermons” you will get opportunities to express yourselves too.

This engagement and encounter is a clear sign of maturity, integrity and yearnings for peace in our global village. The purpose of this conference is not to neutralise and water down our faith commitments.

We have gathered here to explore our commonalities, moral, social and spiritual concerns. To share good practices that we have developed in facing the challenges of post- modernity. Issues like: how do we develop the moral character of youth in a consumer society, how do we serve our elderly congregation, how do we enable our congregations to understand one another, how can we avoid mutual demonisation?

We are here together Christians and Muslims as friends, as the people of the book and members of the family of the Abrahamic faiths on the basis of mutuality and equality.

This conference is the first of its kind, its breaking new ground. You will get the opportunity to understand one another through dialogue and something quiet new “Scripture reading”. Here we will listen to a Christian and a Muslim reading their scripture and reflecting on its meanings. This is not an exercise about appeasing one another. The archbishop of Canterbury says “this is not seeking an empty formula of convergence or trying to deny our otherness; indeed as we reflect on the holy texts we read we shall be seeking to make a better sense of how we relate to one another the stranger with whom we can still speak “in trust and love”.

Let us pray that during this conference we can develop this love and trust amongst ourselves.

This conference is organised by the Christian Muslim forum. The conference fulfils the Aims and objectives of the forum these are as follows:

  • To weave a web of open, honest and committed personal relationships between Christian and Muslims.
  • To encourage shared reflection on the spiritual, theological, scholarly, ethical and practical values of the two traditions in order to offer resources for citizenship in our society.
  • To build shared public platform to strengthen Christians and Muslims working together for the common good in partnership with others.
  • To develop channels of communication to help Christians and Muslims together to respond to events which test our relationship.

Please enjoy the conference.

Wassalam peace be with you all.