In celebration of World Inter Faith Harmony Week, the Muslim Council of Britainâs Inter Faith Relations Committee organised a colloquium on the theme of âBuilding Trust, Peace and Harmony through Inter Faith Relationsâ on 6th February 2012. The event was hosted by Lord Sheikh of Cornhill at the House of Lords, with speeches from a wide array of speakers from different faiths and a speech from the Guest of Honour for the evening, Princess Badiya El Hassan of Jordan, who presented a video message from her father, HRH Prince Hassan Bin Talal.
(From Left to Right: Dr Manazir Ahsan, Chair of MCB's Inter Faith Relations Committee, Princess Badiya El Hassan of Jordan, Lord Sheikh of Cornhill, HE Mazen Homoud, Ambassador of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, Abdul Rahman Al-Suhaibani, Counsellor from the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia and Farooq Murad, Secretary General of the MCB)
Welcoming the Guest of Honour, Princess Badiya, the hosts, speakers and guests, Dr Manazir Ahsan, Chair of MCBâs Inter Faith committee said, âthis âweekâ will not only create harmony but also greatly help to bridge the gaps of mistrust and suspicion which unfortunately still exist for one reason or another, between faiths, beliefs, cultures and communitiesâ.
The host Lord Sheikh, highlighted the importance of inter faith relations and gatherings such as these and said âIslam is a part of the Abrahamic faith and Islam regards Christians and Jews as the people of the book. Everyone one of us should be an ambassador in promoting Islamâs message of peaceâ.
Princess Badiya addressed the audience about her great interest in Inter Faith relations and introduced the pioneering work of her father, HRH Prince Hassan Bin Talal âin promoting inter and intra-faith dialogueâ she continued. âLong before the word Interfaith was known and used, my father had the confidence that made him comfortable in engaging and interacting with the âotherâ and those who seem different. Such confidence stems from a genuine understanding of oneâs own religion.â
Guests were then shown a video message from HRH Hassan Bin Talal, in which he commended the excellent work on inter faith and encouraged greater dialogue to âensure a free flow of information between our communities and work together, beginning with commonalityâ. Talking about the Arab Spring Prince Hassan said âit is not a spring against anybody but a reform movement based on values and human dignityâ. He commented on London preparing for the Olympics and said âMuslims look forward to Muslim athletes alongside our athletes from different parts of the world, believers and non believers to participate in a spirit of sport for peace. The Olympic traditions usually give us an idea of how rich our common humanity is, particularly our youthâ.
Dr Harriet Crabtree OBE, Director of the Interfaith Network for the UK commented on World Inter Faith Harmony Week, âIt is an important week significantlyâ and said how âreligions can be a great contributor to peace and trust, which was the theme of the event, underpins all inter faith relationsâ.
Mehri Niknam MBE, CEO of The Joseph Interfaith Foundation, spoke about Muslim-Jewish relations in the Middle East and highlighted the statement: âWhat happens elsewhere does not or should not affect our interfaith relations hereâ and said âThe issue of gaining trust in the eyes of your dialogue partner is vital in building sound interfaith relations, particularly Muslim-Jewish.
Bharti Taylor, Secretary General of the Hindu Forum of Europe, talked about how all religions are equal and how âpluralism, acknowledgment and equality are all important inter faith areas and the importance of taking back the things we learn from each other to our own communities and sharing it with themâ.
The event included a unique artwork presentation by Kristiane Backer, former MTV presenter and Alexander de Cadenet, the artist behind the sculpture. It was based on the common beliefs shared between the two religions. A mini sculpture of a big needle centred in a green field with camels on either side of the needle sculpture provided a visual element of a verse from the Quran and the Bible in which it says: âIndeed, those who deny Our verses and are arrogant toward them - the gates of Heaven will not be opened for them, nor will they enter Paradise until a camel enters into the eye of a needleâ (Chapter 7, verse 40, Holy Quran).
Artist Alexander De Cadenet with Sheikh Hojjat Ramzy admiring 'The Eye of the Needle' sculpture.
The evening also consisted of young contributors sharing their perspective on inter faith relations. Dr Bilal Hassam, a member of the MCBâs Inter Faith Relations Committee, mentioned how the Arabic word for âyouthâ means âsparkâ to represent the energy of youth but these days, âthat energy is wastedâ. âAs a young person, when you look at the world, what is it that we are inheriting?â he asked. He raised important issues such as poverty and how there is inconsistency in the world we live in. Bilal talked about putting things we believe into practice, âIf you think child poverty is cruel, you should check where your clothes are fromâ. He talked about how everyone should work together with the âexperience of the old and the zeal of the youthâ and encouraged everyone to be âpractical optimistsâ.
Megh Falter, a digital Marketer, talked about her own conversion to Islam âafter 15 years of hardcore atheismâ, with her father being Jewish and her mother a Christian. When she first started learning about Islam, it was âin the context of Islamophobia and terrorismâ when she was in New York. âI didnât take that for an answer and went to university and started a few courses on Islam. What I learnt was that Islam is a continuation of what I was brought up with â Judaism and Christianityâ. She went on to say how âthere are so many universal elements that unite us, we need to step back and analyse on a micro levelâ. Megh exclaimed how âfaith is a gift and is something we should be extremely fortunate to haveâ and talked about how we need to share our commonalities.
Guest Speaker, HE Mazen Homoud, the Ambassador of The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan in London said, âAs we celebrate, we need to remember the message of peaceâ. The other Guest Speaker, Professor Mohamed El-Gomati OBE and President of the Foundation for Science, Technology and Civilisation showed many practical examples of how everyone is a part of one world and said âeveryone and every civilisation have made contributions to this world we live inâ. He went on to say, âBy recognising and honouring the âotherâ, we are building the truthâ.
Farooq Murad, Secretary General of the MCB, said in his concluding remarks, âIt is a challenge for people of faith to dispel the common perception that faith and religions are cause for conflicts and bloodshed. The fact is that it is not faith, but its absence, lack of its understanding, ignorance and vested interests which cause problems. The challenge requires faith leaders to come together, build trust and work together on the common values of peace and harmony. MCB is committed to working together with all faith communities and the UN World Interfaith Harmony Week provides a wonderful opportunity for us all to come together."