Monday, February 05, 2007

Who is my religious neighbour?

Living as a religious believer in our era and context is immensely complex and challenging. While seeking to understand our own faith and live faithfully as disciples of our own faith, we are also challenged by outside influences - secular denial and even ridicule is one such challenge. Another is engaging with people of other faiths. How do I justify what I believe when that belief encounters the equally sincere belief and practice of people of other faiths?

Often the response is ignorance - we just do not know enough about other faiths, often because they are beyond our experience. As part of our formation in faith at the Chaplaincy, we have an occasional series called "Who is my religious neighbour?" It takes the form of visiting the place of worship of another faith, and allowing them to tell us about themselves, in their own context.

Earlier this month a small group accompanied Sr Mary to the Regent's Park Mosque, where they had a very frank encounter and were shown around the mosque and introduced to some of the key elements of Islam.

The next such visit will be to a Jewish synagogue. Relations between Jews and Christians have been fraught with difficulties down the centuries, and tension obviously still exists. But the great document of the Second Vatican Council, Nostra Aetate, tried to instill in Christians a new way of encounter with people of other faiths. Nostra Aetate reminded us that God's first covenant, with the Jewish people, has never been rescinded. Amazingly, Pope John Paul II was the first Pope since St Peter to visit a synagogue! He described the Jewish people as "our older brothers" in faith, and described followers of both faiths as "brothers in Abraham".

Sr Mary will be leading the visit to The Liberal Jewish Synagogue in St John's Wood on Wednesday 28 February, at 2.15pm. If you are interested in joining Sr Mary on this visit, please contact her at

No comments: