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Report Proposes Forum of Muslims and Christians

Wednesday 7th July 2004

Co-operation between Muslims and Christians in England has reached the point where formal structures should be developed at the national level to enable the two communities to work together on issues of common interest, according to the conclusions of a listening exercise which has recently reported to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams.

The initiative was set up in 2001 and has involved visits by a small group of Christians and Muslims to several different places in England (Blackburn, Nelson, Bradford, Leicester, London, Birmingham, Oldham), meeting with over five hundred individuals and organisations in both communities.

They heard everywhere of the need for Muslims and Christians to develop a new vision for understanding and partnership. The fundamental challenge to be faced is that of living together creatively and harmoniously in our increasingly plural society. The current context presents both a timely opportunity and a pressing imperative for Christians and Muslims to rise to such a challenge, and in so doing to make a joint contribution to the common good.

The report's conclusion is that a formal structure for dialogue and encounter would bring stability and promote understanding between the two faith communities as they encounter issues of difference and of common concern and seek to enhance their contribution to public life.

The Bishop of Aston, the Rt Revd John Austin, who chaired the group which produced the report, commented: "The people we met were genuinely enthusiastic in their conviction that a national organisation enabling Muslims and Christians to work together was necessary, timely and increasingly urgent. They were glad that the Archbishop of Canterbury had taken this initiative. It is our unanimous recommendation that a Forum  of Muslims and Christians be created."

The Muslim members of the group, Dr Fatma Amer, Mr Fuad Nahdi and Dr Ataullah Siddiqui said: "We have had a very positive experience of working together on this project with a group of Christians with whom we formed strong bonds. Both the process of the project so far and its proposals bode well for the future."

Dr Williams said: "I am tremendously grateful for this report. Patient listening is an indispensable part of true dialogue and the members of this group have listened carefully to the hopes and concerns of many Muslims and Christians. The result of this listening is a set of very promising proposals, from which I am confident that much good will flow over the coming years."

The next stage of the process is that a group of Muslims and Christians chaired by the Bishop of Bolton, the Rt Revd David Gillett, will work on the implementation of the proposals made in this report.

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