Reach out and you will hopefully be rewarded, says Canon Edward Jarosz of Holy Souls in Scunthorpe
LAST week I attended a conference entitled "Christian witness in a multi-faith world". It brought together Christians from different churches and traditions who have some involvement in inter-religious and multi-faith activities.
We listened to some interesting speakers and had some lively debates and discussions. It seems that all Christian communities see the value and necessity of engagement with the wider community at some level at least and many of the speakers were able to share their experiences of working with other faith communities (and also people who identify as non-religious). However the conference participants also often expressed how difficult it was to get started and make progress in this direction. In North Lincolnshire we are fortunate to have the North Lincolnshire Multi Faith Partnership to support us in our efforts, long may that continue to be so.
Amidst all the theology and statistics one speaker's contribution stood out for me. He told us his two-point plan for breaking down barriers and building community cohesion and resilience. What was it? "Smile and say hello." Sounds simple, perhaps too simple, but is it not worth a thought? If someone looks, dresses, or eats differently to us then it is easy to close ourselves off from them and miss out on the opportunity of getting to know them. However, if we reach out beyond our own comfort zone we will hopefully be rewarded with rich and valuable experiences that affirm our common humanity even as we express it in our different cultures and religious traditions.
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