Inter-Religious Affairs

by Gerry Lynch last modified 20 Aug, 2018 02:43 PM

The Diocese works to promote good relations and deeper understanding between Christians and people of other faith


We should always "be ready to give an account of the hope that is within us, but with gentleness and respect" and we must remember that people of other faiths are also loved by God, and can be touched by Him when they pray.

“Inter-religious understanding and engagement is just as important in areas like this Diocese where minority faiths are small. Stereotypes arise more easily where people rarely meet those of other faiths.” - Canon Guy Wilkinson

The Diocese has relatively small communities belonging to faiths other than Christianity, although there is a well established Jewish community in the Greater Bournemouth-Poole area, and small communities of Muslims in several of the larger towns, most notably in Trowbridge, Poole, and Salisbury. There are individuals belonging to all major world faiths scattered across the Diocese.

Among New Religious Movements, the neopagan movement is larger in Wiltshire than almost anywhere else in the country.

Bishop Nicholas regularly writes to leaders of other religions in the Diocese around major festivals, to extend good wishes and recognise their contribution to the common good.


Islamic Festival of Eid al-Adha

Next week from the evening of 21st August, Muslims in the UK and across the world celebrate Eid al-Adha, the most important festival in the Islamic calendar.

The event, also known as the “Feast of Sacrifice” is the second of two holidays celebrated by Muslims each year and considered holier of the two, hence its nickname “Big Eid”.

The other, Eid al-Fitr translates from Arabic as the “festival of breaking the fast” took place earlier this year and marked the end of a month of fasting as Ramadan came to a close.

Islam follows the lunar calendar which is based on phases of the moon. This means, that in comparison to the Gregorian equivalent, the dates vary from year to year, drifting approximately 11 days earlier annually. Eid al-Adha falls on the 10th day of Dhu al-Hijjah, the most sacred month of the Islamic year. It is also when Hajj, a pilgrimage which all able-bodied Muslims are encouraged to complete once in their lives, takes place.

The origin of Eid al-Adha dates back to the story as told in the Quran of Abraham (Ibrahim in the Quran). After years of longing for a child, Ibrahim and his wife were given a son in their old age. But, as a testament to his love for Allah, Ibrahim was asked to sacrifice him. The couple travelled to Mecca to carry out the task. On their journey, they were repeatedly met by Satan who tempted them to break their promise to God, but they threw stones at him to drive him away. Similarly, in Hajj, as part of the pilgrimage stones are thrown at symbolic pillars, an act known as ‘stoning of the devil’, in commemoration of the couple’s rejection of Satan. However, before the blindfolded Ibrahim could carry out the sacrifice, Allah replaced his son with a ram in a fraction of a second, which was slaughtered instead. In celebration of Ibrahim’s love for god and this ultimate act of devotion, Muslims honour this by sacrificing an animal on Eid al-Adha every year.

New Inter religious Affairs Adviser for the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Church of England

The Revd Dr Richard Sudworth, a parish priest in Birmingham, has been appointed and more can be read about him here


Vandalism of the Holocaust memorial Day tree in Churchill Gardens

On Holocaust Memorial Day in  2007,a myrtle tree was planted in Churchill Gardens  and in 2017 a plaque was place in front of it. Sadly, in what appears to be an act of antisemitism, the tree has been devastatingly vandalised and is unlikely to survive. 

There have been strong reactions to this from Bishop Nicholas, John Glen MP, some Councillors and others. The Parks Dept have generously offered to replace the tree.

Last year Bishop Nicholas and the City leadership signed the 'Salisbury statement on antisemitism' and this can be read here

The Inter Faith Network of the UK

If you like to see a glimpse of the extent of inter faith engagement, you can see something of it in the Newsletter of the Inter Faith Network of the UK here. It's well worth a look and points to a number of current areas  of national importance.KEY RESOURCES

The Church Urban Fund Near Neighbours programme seeks to bring people together who are near neighbours in communities that are religiously and ethnically diverse, so that they can get to know each other better, build relationships of trust, and collaborate together on initiatives that improve the local community they live in. Learn more at

The Church of England Presence & Engagement programme helps parishes be a truly national Church in areas of high religious diversity, following report to General Synod Presence and Engagement: the churches' task in a multi Faith society. It encourages and supports the mission and ministry of parishes and other Anglican communities in multi-religious contexts, supported by the Church of England's national Adviser on Inter Faith relations.

The BBC website has a useful introductory guide to the beliefs of a wide variety of religions - visit it here.

Porvoo Guidelines: inter-religious encounter in churches of the Porvoo Communion
The Porvoo Communion draws together Anglican churches from Britain and Ireland with Lutheran churches from Scandinavia and the Baltic. These guidelines emerged from a consultation held in Oslo in December 2003. They have no official status, but offer some practical pointers on pastoral issues.

Inter Faith Marriage Guidelines: advice from a Christian perspective.

Network for Inter Faith Concerns (NIFCON) of the Anglican Communion.

The Bournemouth and Wessex Branch of the Council of Christians and Jews meets 4-5 times per year. More details at

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