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Faith interchange

During escalating tensions and complex situations in many parts of the world having an interfaith dialogue has never been more pressing. The need to foster understanding, cooperation, and empathy among diverse religious communities becomes ever more important. Interfaith dialogue offers hope, an opportunity towards removing barriers, and a platform for meaningful discourse amidst turbulent times. In this article, I will be asking people of different faiths to delve into the significance of interfaith dialogue against the backdrop of recent events in the Middle East, exploring its potential to cultivate peace, bridge divides, and forge a shared vision for a harmonious future.

Barking and Dagenham is home to an extraordinarily rich and diverse range of faith communities and the demand for religious meeting places in the Borough is increasing. Twenty-five percent of the residents are from ethnic backgrounds. People of various faiths are finding this borough to be a place to choose and make their home. Barking and Dagenham community groups are working together to foster an opportunity to have interfaith dialogues to bring together people of different faiths and communities. 

Faith communities continue to encourage residents to visit places of worship as it can build trust and cohesion. A recent interfaith week celebrated the rich diversity and contributions made by faith groups. Al Madina Mosque in Ilford, St Margaret’s Church in Barking and Barking Singh Sabha Gurwara were hosting these events. Religious places of worship opened doors to the public to encourage visitors to learn more about practices and beliefs of other faiths. 

Councillor, Sabbir Zammee explains “Being good to your neighbour is a shared value amongst people of differing faiths. We live in a multicultural community where everyone should feel comfortable to practise their faith or no faith. By encouraging visitors, we hope to help build a safer and more tolerant neighbourhood. It is everyone’s borough. No one should be left behind, this is the Borough’s motto. Lots of support is available for people who feel they need to reach out to someone. Speak to your councillors and raise whatever concerns you may have. All councillors have their surgery for help and support. LBBD has various Hubs that can also provide support.”  

Tamanna Begum a GP registrar and local resident feels building communities is key. “Attending community events allows us to see the common values we hold. We have a responsibility to engage with others and focus on alleviating suffering wherever we can. Discussions of current events need to be navigated with sensitivity. This helps young people be part of an open and respectful society.” 

I spoke with Shakir, a schoolteacher, and shared his thoughts that respect, peace and justice should be at the heart of our co-existence. He believed having this interfaith discourse will help people have discussions about how each other’s religions are allowing for comparisons. Allowing openness and empathy can help remove stereotypes and discrimination but allowing people to see what different faiths are about instead of seeing what is on social media and bias news. He says “I was talking to a colleague, talking about our faiths and we looked at religious texts for both religions and the thought process of each religion and how it impacts each other’s faith, this brought about a love and a sense of appreciation of each other’s faith”. People of faith have important roles to lead by example and give people the confidence to have the types of discussions and give guidance on how to be a better role model than those who bring disunity.

He highlighted that he runs a ‘Youth group’ at the local mosque and it has helped to unite the local youth in a place of worship where they can enjoy themselves in different games with like- minded people and have conversations on different topics. This has allowed them to express themselves in an open space and connect to their religion in a unique way.

Olabisi Mosaku, who is an English Lecturer at New city College, Redbridge, shared her values on the interfaith dialogue. She says everyone deserves to be listened to and respected regardless of their faith or background. Having taught students for many years and has come across students of all faiths and communities and knows very well the value that faith has in one’s life. She says “give people a listening ear, every culture is important, and we will peacefully coexist. This dialogue will help us recognise that everyone is special in their own ways. She said she has friends of different cultures and religions, including her mother who is from the Muslim faith, she has a great level of respect and love for people of other faiths. She shared “once we talk that is when you realise that we have more in common than our differences”.

By Hafizur Rahman

Local resident and REB member

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