Religious leaders meet to bridge divides

Rev Bruce Stokes admitted religious cooperation faced problems from within

Rev Bruce Stokes admitted religious cooperation faced problems from within - Credit: Archant

Faithful Friends met on Monday to promote co-operation between the borough’s religious communities.

After meeting at Neville Road’s Ramgarhia Gurdwara, Christians, Muslims, Sikhs and others covered their heads to take Langar, a Sikh tradition of feeding temple visitors, and were lectured on Sikh history and philosophy by temple representative Tarlok Singh Sura.

Speakers then shared their takes on religious tolerance, with Woodgrange Baptist Church’s Rev Bruce Stokes acknowledging difficulties in interfaith societies.

“There’s a long history of hatred of the Jews in Christianity and there’s a long history of the church not showing respect,” he said. “It would be silly of me to stand up and say we are very respectful of other religions because our religion and the Bible says something different.”

He said the key to overcoming differences was to recognise that everyone is your neighbour.


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“Everybody is your neighbour – you don’t go round deciding who your neighbour is,” he said. “I would love everyone to become a Christian because that’s the conviction I have – but if you don’t I want to be your friend anyway.”

Sabir Elahi, a representative of the Forest Gate branch of Minhaj ul-Qur’an, said that Muslims should work with other faith groups to break misconceptions that his religion is violent, citing Islam as his inspiration for 15 years of peace activism.

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“This misunderstanding goes to the media and negative connotations are published,” he said. “All faiths are basically teaching ways to serve humanity and perform our responsibilities.”

He also accused the Wahhabist Saudi regime, which enforces strict Sharia (Islamic law), for its misrepresentation of Islam.

“The history of Islamic fundamentalism only started in 1927,” he said. “In Saudi Arabia, 30 million people are trying to hijack the beliefs of 1.5 billion Muslims.”

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