West Berkshire Peace and Integration Forum has been organizing Shared Meal evenings for many years now. These evenings present a valuable opportunity to socialize with people from diverse ethnic backgrounds, religions, age groups etc. On Sunday 6 December about forty people from in and around Newbury and Thatcham gathered to share a meal and celebrate a variety of opinions – this time about Jesus.
Several speakers shared their divergent perspectives on Jesus. Andy How emphatically summarized his perspective on Jesus that stemmed from his belief in Jesus as the saviour. Kareem Sharawi spoke about Quran’s stance on Jesus as a Prophet, as a human and an exemplary individual. Kareem’s discourse was primarily an investigation of Islamic sources.
Finally Caroline Fletcher, who is a Quaker, spoke about how experiences shape individuals, and how following the way of Jesus is a self-exploration journey rather than a pre-directed course of action.
This stimulating discussion was followed by the shared meal, where people enjoyed home made cuisines. The shared meal part of the evening was filled with a real buzz around the hall, where people engaged in discussions on various topics in smaller groups. After the meal, we reconvened for a comment and feedback session, over a cup of tea.
The discussion showed how Christianity emphasizes that people are born in the state of sin and Islam stresses that people are born in a state of purity, and the urge to sin is nurtured as one ages. However, both theologies stress the continuous effort required to overcome those weaknesses and tendencies to sin, be they natured or nurtured. This is the reason why one of the previous evenings of Peace and Integration was on the theme ‘How do I overcome’.
The evening showed that we could vastly differ on religious matters, yet we can get-together and discuss those topics in an ambiance of love and empathy. Peace and Integration forum encourages people to diffuse in opinions alien to them, and understand others, rather than remain silent on subjects on which we differ. As a human family, our beauty lies in our diversity; the buzz, energy and smiles exchanged that evening showed how true that is.
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