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Inter-Religious Work

by Gerry Lynch last modified 16 Jun, 2018 08:51 AM

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.


The Islamic Festival of Eid ul Fitr

The Festival of Eid marks the ending of the Ramadan period of fasting over the past month and which ends with the sighting of the moon on Thursday 15th June and lasts through to the following evening. A traditional greeting to Muslims for the festival is 'Eid Mubarak' which means 'Blessed Eid'

Read the Archbishop of Canterbury's message 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 for example the new Government Integration Strategy here

Understanding Islam

Hilfield Friary, Dorset, 25-29 June. Contact .

The course is intended to build a first introduction for anyone who wants to understand Islam.

The Understanding Islam course has been developed over decades by Chris Hewer. Participants are invited to take a critical journey to understand Islam through the eyes of those who follow it.  The course is conducted in manageable groups as an interactive seminar with opportunities for questions and discussion throughout.

 Chris has built a reputation for being an exceptional scholar and teacher with an outstanding understanding and love of Islam and a passion for sharing it with others. Chris comes from a background in Christian theology, education, Islamic studies and inter-faith studies, and has worked in the field of Muslims in Britain and Christian-Muslim relations since 1986. For more information about Chris and his work go to

 He writes: “Who knows best what Islam is about?  Muslims do; so this course will aim to help people to understand Islam as Muslims believe it and live it.  Which Muslims?  Well, Islam is a diverse way of life that is understood differently in many details by different Muslim groups and individuals but there is a broad agreement on the solid central elements of Islam, which is what I shall try to explain.  We may call this “mainstream Islam.”  From time to time the diverse positions taken by different Muslims will be explored.  The author is a Christian and thus I am bound by Christian ethical principles, a key one of which is to “do unto others what you would have them do unto you.”  It would offend me if a Muslim were to teach a course about Christianity that was coloured by her Muslim understanding in such a way that I felt that my faith was being distorted; therefore I will try diligently not to do that to Islam in this course.  We could extend the principle, to “seek to understand others as you would like them to understand you.”  That is the ethical principle that readers and viewers are invited to assume in working through this course.

 The course has deliberately been called “Understanding Islam” with the emphasis on understanding.  To understand a way of life requires more than just accumulating knowledge and understanding it in our heads.  We may call this intellectual understanding.  To understand a way of life though requires also that we should attempt to feel what it is like to follow that way. This “feeling knowledge” we could call “the knowledge of the heart” or intuitive knowledge.  During this course we will attempt to understand Islam both with our heads and our hearts; to know and feel what it is from the perspective of a Muslim. We may call this “empathetic understanding.”  

 It is important to see the difference between ideals and realities but, even more important, to know when we compare Muslim ways of life with whatever we might think or do ourselves that we are comparing like with like.  There is a temptation when studying another faith or way of life to compare “my wonderful ideals” with “your sordid realities” and we can see where that can lead us.

 There is a fundamental difference between understanding something and agreeing with it.  I can seek to understand the factors that might lead someone to become an alcoholic without agreeing that this is a good life stance.  This course seeks to promote understanding but no-one is asked to agree with what Islam teaches or adopt a Muslim way of life.  This is not a conversion exercise!  We are free to understand and disagree.  Islam teaches that God gave us intellect, reason and freedom to puzzle things out and decide for ourselves.  God does not compel human beings to believe [Q. 2:256].  Critical questions and observations are allowed and from time to time these will be addressed in the course.  


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 with attendance at meetings from 60 up. More details at

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