Mere days after terror attacks in Beirut and Paris, the theme of an interfaith meeting of Christians and Muslims at the Ecumenical Centre in Geneva on ‘Religion, Peace and Violence’ was entirely appropriate, said participants.
They spent two days candidly and honestly speaking about their faiths, in a dialogue between Shia Muslims from the Islamic Republic of Iran associated with the Centre for Interreligious Dialogue (CID) and Christians involved in the World Council of Churches (WCC).
‘There was a profound discussion about the fact that, though the means of violence and killing have become increasingly sophisticated in our world, the means for working for peace are still very simple and straightforward, namely the meeting with and openness towards those who are different to ourselves’, said a participant.
‘It is important to speak with rather than about those who were seen as other‘, reflected one dialogue partner after the meeting.
The meeting was attended by the Rev. Bonnie Evans-Hills who serves on Churches Together in Britain and Ireland’s Interfaith Theological Advisory Group (IFTAG) and is interfaith adviser in the diocese of St Albans.
Bonnie saw the Geneva gathering offering an ‘incredible amount of hope. It is almost as if we have a shared martyrdom and a shared innocence. Those who want to kill don’t care whether they are killing Christians, Muslims or Jews. We are all in this together, and we need to pull together and love one another.’
She spoke about the current situation in Britain where her groups are working to provide young Christians, Muslims or those of no faith with hope in a future that has scant opportunities for work and fulfilment.
‘Faith communities have to come together. Differences between faith communities have largely disappeared’, she said.
She said she would probably disagree with a notion discussed that young people are fleeing from religion because they are bombarded with a secular, materialistic world.
‘I would say young people tend to leave organised religions because they are fleeing from the exclusivist positions some of our leaders take. We need to work with all faiths’, she said.
For a full report of the meeting see the WCC website.