Published on February 22nd, 2013 | by HOHBrian0
Spiritual Risk Takers
Yann and Matloob are an unlikely couple: one tall, skinny and white, the other short, stocky and brown; one a Buddhist, the other a Muslim. They became friendly over the course of a number of events looking at different forms of co-operation between faiths. One day they were together on a ‘faith guides’* training course. It became clear that the course was going to ‘ask awkward questions’, as opposed to being another routine ‘tea and samosas’ exercise. Yann decided to jump in with both feet, and he said:
‘The new challenge for faith communities, and in particular their leadership, is how in a secular multi-faith society, there can emerge a theology that transcends their boundaries to reach out to others to work for a mission which promotes cohesion between and across faiths…’ (Dr. Mashuq Ally Dec. 2012)
‘Matloob, you know that I can’t possibly believe what you believe, so am I going to Hell?’
All eyes, many of them Muslim, were on Matloob. He is a highly respected leader in his religious community, and Yann knew that if he said ‘Yes’, then, in the eyes of many of those present, Yann was destined to burn. He also knew the pressure he had put on Matloob by asking him that question is such a public forum. Matloob’s answer impressed him deeply:
‘This is my personal belief: I don’t think you are going to Hell at all. Each of us is serving the Divine in our own way, and that will be recognised.’
Both men had been prepared to take a risk, very publicly; to gamble on the quality of their shared humanity. Both felt profoundly supported by each other in coming through it. From this moment on their friendship was rooted in an increased sense of trust.
Spending time together
‘My hope is that we move to a wide understanding of peace. To do so, we need to set aside energy-sapping and conflict-causing arguments about my religion or my interpretation of religion being better than yours, and move to a common goal of working for peace based on fairness and justice for all members of our human family.’ (Indarjit (Lord) Singh Feb. 2012)
Yann and Matloob had already spent quite a lot of time together in activities like the Lozells Faith Forum. This allowed them to build up enough understanding and respect to then go to another level. The Forum plans, and gets funding for, a range of initiatives which bring people of different faiths together, in the belief that once friendships are formed deeper levels of insight and co-operation will follow, leading on to the key ingredient: trust. On this basis Yann and Matloob are able enter into dialogue about their faiths. As Yann points out, this is also a risky business: genuine dialogue means being open to persuasion to a different point of view. Their approach to belief, however, has prepared them for this. Yann talks about how all those involved in the ‘monastic’ elements of different religions ‘know they are talking about the same thing’. Matloob likens it to many people heading for the City Centre, but going by different routes.
The writer of this article, one of the many who are not a member of any formal religion, follows a different route to either Yann or Matloob. Having come close to their encounter, however, I have learned something about the nature of dialogue, about how trust can develop between those of different beliefs, and about how such relationships can be the building blocks of a new Handsworth.
*See www.faithencounter.org.uk or contact Ruth Tetlow on 0121 449 4982