Last week local Christian and Muslim communities in West Berkshire contributed to the ‘Week of Prayer for World Peace’ an annual initiative which began in 1974 to draw people of different faiths together to pray for a greater peace in the world. Local Christians attended Muslim Friday prayers and local Muslims attended a Christian Sunday church service to stand in solidarity together and to pray for greater understanding and peace in the world.
Revd. Paul Cowan of St George’s Church Newbury and Howard Grace, a member of Newbury Quakers, attended Friday Prayers in Thatcham last week as guests of the local Muslim community, and then Mohammad Tahir, Shahzad Nadeem along with other members of the local Muslim community joined the congregation of St George’s for their Sunday service.
“There are many events happening across the world that can too easily generate fear, distrust and division between people of different faiths and cultures,” explains Revd Cowan. “After the tragic murder of the Roman Catholic priest, Fr. Jacques Hamel’s in northern France back in July, I was struck by the positive power of photographs the following week showing Muslims attending Christian services of worship as an act of solidarity. What a perfect response to those who wish to sow division and hate. This has been our own small act of that same solidarity locally. My grateful thanks to our Muslim friends for their warmth of welcome.”
Mohammad Tahir, member of West Berks Peace & Integration Forum, agreed that there are striking similarities between people of all religions, which he feels becomes apparent when we attend each others’ religious ceremonies. “On a deeper level, we are all humans, we are all from the same race,” he continues. “There has always been more that unites us than what divides, but attempts of instilling hate and distance between people of varying cultures, ethnicities and religions can sometimes fog those elements of commonality. We do have our differences, but this continuum of personalities, background, cultures, beliefs makes the human race beautiful. Unity does not mean uniformity. Attending the church, was an enlightening, delightful and spiritual experience. I loved the ‘sharing of peace’ which was a powerful reminder that we all belong to one human family. Sitting in an Anglican church, there was a contrast between my belief, ethnicity and background with that of the other participants, but I did not feel distant. I felt that I was with my human family.”