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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Friday, July 07, 2006
    Two quotes for the Seventh
    God visits all lost souls
    To survey the damage
    We noticed a bonfire
    Burning in his eyes

    He whispered,
    "It's the atrocities of your story"

    God visits all lost souls
    To survey the damage
    And holding his bleeding heart
    A tear comes to his eye

    He whispered,
    "It's the atrocities of History"

    Then he falls to the floor
    For there's many more tears on the sunrise
    And now we must eat those tears
    Now we must eat our fill
    Of the Atrocities

    - Antony and the Johnsons: The Atrocities

    An interfaith conference was held on the holy Isle of Iona. From this a joint Moslem-Christian communique resulted in the decision that national interfaith services of reconciliation would take place. One would be in Edinburgh's St Giles Cathedral and the other in Glasgow Mosque.

    But a problem arose with the Edinburgh event. The timing was going to clash with the Moslems' evening call to prayer. They would be unable to attend.

    It was then that Dr Bashir Maan, the spokesperson of Glasgow Mosque, remembered something from the Hadith. This is the oral tradition of Islam. Seemingly Prophet Muhammed (peace be upon him) had allowed visiting Christians to use his mosque for their worship. Might it be conceivable, he wondered, for us likewise to do something in this spirit?

    Scotland's Christian leaders responded warmly. They would even allow Moslem worship to be conducted in front of the altar at St Giles Cathedral as part of the service. So it came to pass that Christians watched on as Moslems prayed in their church. Our silence felt respectful to the point of inner participation.

    The following week, on 25 October 1991, Imam Tufail Hussain Shah addressed Christians at prayer in the community hall of the Glasgow Mosque. Referring to the previous week's event, he said, 'We joined that night, and again now in this Mosque, to worship the same God, God as was known to the early Jews as Yahweh. God as revealed in the Christian tradition through Jesus Christ. God who we Muslims know by the Arabic word, Allah... We share a common commitment to love, justice, charity, mercy, piety and peace. Building these qualities in our hearts perhaps matters more to God than cleverness in arguing about religion. I believe it is God, Allah, who has brought us together. Let us try to stay together and work for peace not only in the Gulf and Middle East, but throught this planet, this Universe of God.'

    Some years later I was telling this story whilst lecturing in Edinburgh University. The son of a Nigerian imam came up to me afterwards. 'You know,' he told me, 'we read all about that in our newspaper in Nigeria.' He explained that at the time Moslems and Christians were killing each other in his country. His father and his colleagues were so astonished to hear that Scottish Christians could talk with Moslems that they decided to initiate the same approach with the Christian leaders in their area. The killings did not entirely stop as a result, but they had greatly reduced.

    - Alastair McIntosh, quoted in Growing Hope - Daily Readings, today.