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Faith to Engage is funded by the Big Lottery and is a national project working with a diverse range of faith groups to impact communities locally and policy nationally. They joint hosted our event with Lord Nat Wei and as part of the evening produced some interesting relfections form the grass roots on the Big Society.
We agree on certain things, we disagree on others, but people of faith have faith and God in common. Some say, ‘How can God, or my God, be involved in a relationship with someone of another faith?’ In other words, ‘Where is God?’ For me, God is with me wherever and whenever, so God is with me when I visit the mosque with Muslim friends. But because God is God, God waits for us as we remove our shoes, this is the significance of taking them off.
Ken Cracknell, wrote a book called ‘Towards a New Relationship – Christians and People of Other Faith’. He talks of ‘the distinctive quality of personal relationships between believing people’. I experience this myself, when Muslim colleagues, at prayer time, pray in my office and I see their devotion. For Western Christians there can be a strangeness in relating to other faiths out of our exclusivist tradition, though this is not true for all Christians. But the Bible is useful in this area!
For example, Abraham meets Melchizedek in Genesis 14, Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High, 19 and he blessed Abram, saying, “Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth.20And blessed be God Most High, who delivered your enemies into your hand.” Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything. He was a priest of a different religion, of which we know nothing, he gave God (the same God) a different name, yet Abraham recognises him as a God’s servant. The most famous person of another religion in the Bible is Job. He was an Edomite (essentially an Arab), you can also read about him in the Qur’an. He is an important figure for the three faiths, without formally belonging to any of them.
Another important verse is Malachi 110 “I wish that someone among you would shut the Temple doors so that these worthless sacrifices could not be offered! I am not at all pleased with you,” says the LORD Almighty, “and I will not accept your offerings. 11But my name is honoured by people of other nations from morning till night. All around the world they offer sweet incense and pure offerings in honour of my name. For my name is great among the nations,” says the LORD Almighty.
There is a similar verse in the Qur’an – 22.40 – mentioning churches and synagogues to the same effect. This is very radical, it is intended to shock, it is prophetic after all. God, through the prophet is saying I do not like your religion, your religious practices, it would be much better if you didn’t bother at all. I hope God is not saying that to us today. But, God continues, these other people, foreigners, people of other faiths, heathen even, honour my name from morning till night. All around the world they offer sweet incense and pure offerings. Some Bible translations seem to have a problem with this and use the eschatological language of ‘will honour’ and so on. But the text is pointing to the current situation. God’s own people are making a mockery of worship, have even betrayed the ‘true’ faith, while the heathens, people of other faiths, are truly worshipping God.
So, what kind of relationships can we have? If we take a step of faith, just as we do whenever we consciously think of our relationship with God, with Jesus, with the Holy Spirit, just as people of other faiths do, we can see ourselves as fellow pilgrims, without, I think, deceiving ourselves. I would also pose the question, again from our Scriptures (Romans 8 ) – What relationships may result from us having God as our Father, when God is the Father of all human beings and Jesus as the firstborn among many brothers [and sisters]? Recognising that we do not own Jesus, Gandhi was inspired by him, Jewish scholars have started to reflect on Jesus as a Jewish teacher and he is revered by Muslims, who are inspired by what they read in the Qur’an – We gave Jesus, son of Mary, clear proof (of Allah’s sovereignty) and We supported him with the Holy Spirit.
Julian Bond, Director Christian Muslim Forum
Nat seems to think that the Big Society is going to be as big a shift in the way we run our country as the invention of the welfare state. He also likens the beginnings of Big Society to the beginnings of the internet. A slow starter but revolutionary in its implications for how we live our lives. All a bit grand I think. He does give some positive examples of innovation as a result of Big Society and references some interesting organisations. He is also right to point out that the voluntary sector has in places become too reliant on government and statutory funding. We should instead be leading the way and criss crossing the sectors in search of sustainable models of funding. Click here for a full podcast of Nat’s speech or view the shortened video below if you have less time.
After months of tension and build up to what would have been one of the most drastic changes to the democratic system, 19.1 million people cast their decisive votes on May 5th.
67.9% of the UK voted NO to the introduction of the Alternative Vote in last week’s Referendum; a clear cut margin to the 32.1% who voted YES.
London had the lowest turnout of all regions in the UK with a total of 35.4% of people voting in the referendum.
Does this mean we are guilty of claiming we want our voices heard, and that we want to see changes in politics, but not taking advantage of the opportunities available?
Why did less than half the UK population vote with only a 42% turnout?
Did you run your own event to discuss AV?
Did you attend a local Debating Democracy event? If so, what did you think of it?
Now that it is certain we shall be sticking to the current First Past the Post System, it’s time for politicians to begin to restore the public’s faith in politics; a lengthy task that will by no means happen overnight….