Saturday 11 October 2014 at the Focolare Centre for Unity

Sixteen of us from a cross-section of Christian traditions, mostly Pentecostal, a Hindu and a Muslim met to discuss approaches to interfaith relations.  There was a high degree of interfaith involvement among those present including a chair of a Christian/Muslim forum, a member of the Interfaith Network, and various other deep involvement in interfaith relations.
Personal experiences/expressions of interfaith relations

  • Coming together has been less about ‘inter-faith’ and more about ‘community social action’; and these mostly Christian/Muslim; happy to work with Social Action but not on faith.
  • Felt like an outcast in Pentecostal ministry circles because of interfaith involvement which is seen by some as denial of Christian teaching that Jesus is the only way to God
  • How do we work with people who are afraid to engage thinking their faith is going to be compromised?
  • Black churches in London area not engaged
  • Interfaith is working with people and promoting understanding of other’s faith
  • Interfaith working well in Leeds
  • Church in the bible mixed with people of other faiths; Interfaith engagement is biblical: ‘love your neighbour’, Abraham, Moses and Paul engaged with other faiths (Acts 17, Paul a Jew first).
  • A lot of dialogue meetings but want to get beyond the dialogue in London
  • Pentecostals in London are very insular and there for their own ends, with no structure in the church to nominate and go on their behalf
  • Some only want to engage in the community if they are heading it; don’t participate in what’s already there
  • Pentecostals not sold on ecumenism not sold on interfaith either
  • Greater involvement needed in Christian-Muslim Forum
  • Works regularly with Evangelical and Pentecostals through interfaith
  • More internal inter-Christian dialogue needed
  • I see in different faiths the same thing as in Christianity
  • Engaging with people of other faiths is the only way I know to exist – very natural
  • Denominational role to encourage engagement with people of other faiths
  • Encouraging everyday engagement as a neighbours
  • Interfaith doing not always has label on it
  • Works in Luton with group of churches with shrinking congregations in mainly Asian, Muslim area helping them to engage with the community
  • Some of the negatives in the news is building on fear; a lot of fear born out of ignorance; fear leads to Christians not having a presence in the area
  • Desiring a community of peace – peace walks etc.  Small ways of bringing people together, from different faiths and cultures – eating together.
  • Is there a difference between Black/White Pentecostals working interfaith?
  • Not sure that interfaith is the answer for community tensions
  • The goal of interfaith does not have much to do with evangelism, but evangelism should not be denied even though aim is not to proselytise
  • Proselytising is possible motivation for people of other faiths too
  • Show the God in you to people of other faiths
  • Conviction to own faith is non-negotiable
  • Some people come expecting something out of the conversation, e.g. once I discuss with him/her, God will to convert him/her.  Difficult to come with that kind of attitude. Do not come to protect or defend God.  God can do it for himself.  Have a quiet demonstration of God’s presence that effects change.  Correct doctrine is that in many things in life and faith remains a mystery rather than trying to prove that we are right.
  • Experience in US taught not to alienate people because of current circumstances, inter-Christian issues, some don’t want to work together because afraid for membership etc…change can occur as time passes
  • Dialogue amongst Christians needed to lose biases: e.g. generational divide – young people more willing and elders are not interested – not of benefit to their faith work. Need to back up the younger ones to working together
  • Romans 12:18, Hebrews 12:14.  Discover interfaith relations from our own holy books will encourage peace with one another
  • Only God will work it out in the end.  If a Christian movement becomes insular it dies
  • Not to dwell too much on our ethnic uniqueness.  Too ethnically focussed will cause a problem with inter-faith
  • Interfaith relations work well when relationships are formed rather than on a formal basis helps with mission.

Focolare at desk 111014
We heard about the Welwyn Hatfield Interfaith Group

A Hindu perspective: A space for understanding one another’s religion.  Festivals of different religions have a commonality – different times but similar celebration.  Sharing in the practices of different faiths have happened in the group.  Festival of life. Summer and Autumn festivals of different religions.  Evening meetings discuss the common things to everyone.  Young people tell how they grew into their faith.  A discussion of what is right and what is wrong.  Different religious people having different views.  Visited different schools. Young people asking people about their faith. Spreading the knowledge and understanding of different faiths.  Public meetings.  All religions converge at a point.  Two things: do good to someone, to do bad to someone is sin; loving people is the way to God.
A Muslim perspective.  Forum brings better understanding of each other.  More free to practice own religion here than in Pakistan because of the restrictions there.  As with other religions, a good Muslim is a good citizen.  Overlaps and gaps within religions.  Differences are not to be exploited but worked though together.  Christianity, Jewish and Muslims same message – love and do good to people.  Accountability is the biggest part.  Teaching peace in the home by example.  Living together love one another.  Free will is very important.  Respect.  Ignorance within the church, when he went to visit the churches. Part of the challenge of interfaith relations is understanding the other.

What have we learned today about Black and Pentecostal approaches to Interfaith Relations?

  • Ignorance is not an option.
  • Evangelism is important but should not be the only priority
  • Interfaith relations are complex not fluffy
  • In interfaith relations perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:18). Have a go if you think you’re tough enough!
  • Connect on the highest common denominator i.e. our humanity
  • Inter-generational dialogue necessary
  • Share your experience of interfaith dialogue with the church and others.  Blog, twitter, facebook.
  • Lead your people without fear – looking outside your own context
  • Internal conversations/education needed
  • Be creative
  • Respect people where they’re at
  • Identify and support those on the front line of interfaith relations
  • No criticism of the other faiths
  • Interfaith is an expression of our own faith

Further information:

Personal reflection from Revd Daniel Otieno-Ndale