World Interfaith Harmony Week

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Over the last three months for me, as part of the Bath University Interfaith Community handling the fallout from the Israeli/Palestinian Conflict and attempting to ensure that students and staff feel protected and safe, one of the of the foundation verses has been Psalm 127: 1

“Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labour in vain. Unless the Lord keeps the city the guard keeps watch in vain.”

At the start of the year, I and some other Christians met the Bath Imam and other Muslim academics to discuss the birth narratives, in both Luke’s Gospel and the Qur’an. There was great joy discovering common ground and shared messages.

In the Christian tradition, the song of Zechariah (the Benedictus) – the words he uses when he is able to speak again after the birth of his son John the Baptist – are:

“This was the oath God swore to our father Abraham, to set us free from the hands of our enemies. Free to worship him with out fear, holy and righteous in his sight all the days of our life.”

The ‘fatherhood’ of Abraham is a source of teaching and hope to the Christian, Jewish and Muslim faith traditions. Close scrutiny of those traditions shows that within each of them, there are widely disparate groups, all claiming this hope.

In our interfaith work here at the University of Bath, a spotlight has shone on these three faith traditions over the last three months because of world events. As we start the new year, the Bath University Interfaith Community (BUIC) is looking forward to an interfaith meal in February and welcoming students from all faith societies including the Sikh, Hindu and Meditation Societies. These groups, too have wonderful writings which guide them.

As this year's World Interfaith Harmony Week (1-7th February) comes to a close, its theme of 'uniting for peace' reminds us to continually look ahead, to strive to find common ground, particularly finding those factors that drive our faith and our hope, and so therefore seek to work towards better religious literacy, understanding of each other and so peaceful relationship building.

Many of us more senior men and women are inspired when we meet students and staff who tell us that in this century, there must be better ways to resolve conflict than military action. The future – ours, theirs and their children’s – depend on this. Let us work together.

Nigel Rawlinson
University Chaplain

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