I am a Christian Priest in the Church of England and I am employed as the Vicar of the Parish of St. Edward the Confessor, Romford. Romford is positioned on the very outskirts of East London and on the very edge of rural Essex. Romford has changed considerably in the last few years from being a community that was predominantly White Christian, to one that is far more diverse in both faith and culture.
It has long been a personal desire of mine to reach out and gain some understanding of other faiths but with the clearly changing demographic of the community in which I serve, the urgency for dialogue and understanding has, I believe for me, become all the more acute.
As Christians, I believe we have a reasonable understanding of Judaism but the average Christian’s knowledge of Islam is virtually non-existent. What they do have is based almost entirely on what we hear in the media and is therefore inevitably coloured by the rhetoric of extremism.
I met a young man named Zameer Hussain through some mutual friends and had always been inspired by the enthusiasm he has for his faith, so I asked him if he would be happy to teach me and give me a grounding in Islam. I found the whole experience incredibly rewarding, particularly when we were able to share the details of our faith and our individual perspectives on a number of ethical and theological issues.
I was particularly moved by one session where Zameer and I shared some stories of personal religious experiences. As ever with encounters like this, it was a delight to realise the extraordinary amount of things that we had in common.
A lasting legacy of our time together has been me trying to find more time in a day for prayer. The traditional twice a day, at morning and in the evening, seems perhaps rather inadequate when set against the Islamic practice of five times a day.
In this climate of ignorance, education is vital. We need to talk and we need to share and perhaps we need to continue to help find ways for the Muslim Community to be more open to the rest of society. As faith leaders, we need to work together to show the world what it really means to be a Muslim, a Christian, and a Jew.
Reverend Mike Power
St. Edward the Confessor, Romford