Interfaith Dialogue

One of the remarkable features of Bahrain is the welcome and openness of the local community towards the Christian Church. The land on which St Christopher’s is built was graciously given by Shaikh Salman bin Hamad Al-Khalifa and HM King Hamad has constantly stressed how much he values the presence of the Church in Bahrain.

Interfaith Meeting with HM King Hamad

It is imperative that we maintain good relationships with the Muslim community and respond with the graciousness of hospitality that is shown to us as guests in this country with equal warmth and openness.

Living Room Dialogue - Sheikh Al JowderFor us the springboard for this has been our Living Room Dialogues  on a Sunday evening,  which provide the opportunity, in the informal setting of a home, to  meet, to share food and to enter in to discussion with a variety of people. We were privileged to host Shaikh Salah Al Jowder, Imam of the Grand Mosque in Muharraq.

Visit to Sheikh Al Jowder's MajlisShekih Al Jowder presents gift to the DeanThis was followed by a visit from the Reader Training Group to a gathering at Shaikh Salah”s home, again an opportunity for friendship, food and dialogue.

Dean with Muhammad Al ZekriIn the context of Bahrain in the past eighteen months the question that lives with me is: “are there ways that the Christian community can be a community of reconciliation?” Inevitably this is in small ways but it was a joy to meet together with clerics from Sunni and Shia traditions in a spirit of friendship. Muhammad Al Zekri, formerly Director of the Centre of Cultural Diversity has been instrumental in arranging such meetings.
The Dean attending a MajlisOccasional invitations come to go to a majhlis. On this occasion I went with Jim Harrison, Pastor of the English Language Congregation at the National Evangelical Church.
Reader Trainees attend MemorialOne of the Units of the Reader Training Course is Other Faiths and Robert O’Meara, who was leading the session on Islam, invited two of his students and their fathers (one Sunni, the other Shia) to talk about how their faith impacted on their daily lives. It was a very insightful evening bringing a deeper understanding and friendship and a deep appreciation from our Bahraini friends.It led to an invitation for a group from the Reader Training group to attend a Memorial event in Saar for six Bahraini girls killed tragically in a car accident and at which I was invited to speak, from a Christian perspective, on suffering and death. The event was organized by the Jamri Foundation who was launching an appeal for six scholarships for six girls to attend university in memory of the girls who died. There was such appreciation from both the families of the girls who had died and the wider community that members of the Cathedral had come.
Saleh Nass - Living Room DialogueAt another Living Room Dialogue the young film director Saleh Nass addressed us and showed us some of his short films. He himself has been involved in film productions involving interfaith dialogue and has produced films for conferences in different countries including one organized by the Bishop of London.
Christmas SurpiseAnd then there are some wonderful surprises….Christmas Day and a phone call to come into the Cathedral car park…a gift of poinsettias as a “symbol of respect and friendship” for this special Christian festival.