Britain has become fruitful in developing into a ‘global village’ where despite being a small country, it is so diverse in terms of the many different races and religions involved in forming this multicultural society. Yet there is a shortage of understanding when it comes to the differences that people may have in their culture and more significantly in their religion.
The concept of Interfaith refers to people of different religions and faiths taking the approach of being positive, accepting and tolerant with another in order to generate a much needed understanding amongst different religions. It is a means through which awareness of the diversity in the communities can be achieved. Engaging in dialogue between people of different religions defines the fundamental principles of which they follow and presents common grounds that they could all work on such as promoting tolerance and mutual respect. It means coming together and attempting to understand that which is alien; exchanging aspects of their respective faiths, without stamping any authority over one another.
God says in the Qur’an, “Invite (all) to the Way of thy Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching; and argue with them in ways that are best and most gracious: for thy Lord knoweth best, who have strayed from His Path, and who receive guidance.”
However, it is essential to understand that Islam, despite the differences, share and have many similarities with Christianity and Judaism as they would so since Islam is the third religion which make up the three Abrahamic faiths along with Judaism and Christianity. Prominent figures such as Jesus and Moses are regarded very highly in Islam as part of the many prophets sent by God, which is approximately 124-125,000. In fact, we cannot deem ourselves as a true Muslim if we do not believe in all the prophets that came before Prophet Muhammad. Such is their rank in the eyes of Islam, Prophet Moses is mentioned by name 136 times in the Qur’an, Prophet Jesus 25 times along with his mother Mary having a whole chapter of the Qur’an dedicated to her. The Prophet Muhammad, on the other hand is only mentioned 5 times by name. This is just a small example of the many similarities we share and it is these commonalities that led to Muslims living side by side with Christians and Jews in peace and mutual understanding throughout periods of history. Muslim Spain is a great example of that.
Albert Einstein famously stated, ‘Peace cannot be kept by force, it can only be achieved by understanding.’
No matter what religion one follows, one must have respect for the individual as we are all equal. This was highly emphasised by the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). Once when the holy Prophet (peace be upon him) was sitting together with his companions, the coffin of a Jew was carried by. The holy Prophet (peace be upon him) stood up and followed him with his eyes, full of remorse. One of his companions said, “He was a Jew”, and the holy Prophet (peace be upon him) replied, “Was he not human?” Consequently, we can gather from this tradition the concept of ‘love of God, love of neighbour’ and the importance of human rights irrespective of your race or religion.
Religion is often used as a reason to claim that unity cannot be accomplished. However, it can be used to influence unity between diverse communities playing a significant role in promoting peace and understanding on a global level. By bringing varying groups together, long lasting alliances can be formed and useful channels of communication maintained. Therefore interfaith dialogue plays a vital role in universal peacekeeping. Through acceptance and tolerance between incongruent religious societies, reciprocal understanding can be developed, as a result feeding the desire to have world peace. Interfaith dialogue can remove many obstacles with one another and even stop or prevent conflicts. Hans Kung, a famous catholic priest, theologian and author, said, “There will be no peace among the nations without peace among the religions. There will be no peace among the religions without dialogue among the religions.”
In 1980, the Department for Religious Affairs in Indonesia, established a forum where interfaith related matters were raised and discussed by leaders of different religious societies. This was an ideal opportunity for them to meet and provide solutions for problems in their society. Perhaps we can do the same here? If you were to deeply reflect over the present-day situation, the key opposition to religion is the misconceptions and hijacking of religions by certain individuals with the agenda to make religion look as the source of war and terror.
Regardless of what religion it is, they all follow the same code and principles of love, mercy, peace and understanding.
Thus, it is upon us all to educate people of these principles through preaching positive practice. “Preaching is by way of positive practise and practice is positive preaching.”