February 2nd, 2016
A respectful dialogue
This Autumn, the Centre offered clergy and religious of Tower Hamlets the chance to take part in a course called “Getting to Grips with Islam”, designed to introduce them to aspects of the religion of so many of our neighbours in this part of London. Ten participants gathered for five sessions with Fr Damian Howard SJ, who works at Heythrop College, University of London and lives here in the Jesuit community at Hurtado. Sr Teresa White FCJ, who lives and works in Poplar, was one of the group. Here is what she had to say about the course:
“Terrorist activities carried out by extremist Islamic groups take place with alarming frequency in today’s world with the result that Western media coverage of Muslims and their religion tends to focus almost exclusively on issues of radical violence. The course helped us to achieve a more balanced perspective, and to see that Islamic jihadists represent a tiny fraction of the global Muslim population. We recognised that for the vast majority, Islam is a not simply an ideology, but a religion, which offers moral and spiritual guidance, and faithful Muslims find in it strength, peace, joy and consolation.
The style of presentation enabled us to engage actively with the material, and comments and questions were welcomed. As we moved through the various topics offered by Damian – Muhammed and the Qu’ran, Islamic Beliefs and Practices, Islamic Law and Society, Islam in the Modern World, Islam and Christianity – it became clear to us that dialogue between Christians and Muslims is the only way forward if we are to live together in peace in the multi-racial settings of our globalised world. Respectful dialogue demands intelligence, humility and confidence, and it includes recognising and making space for difference. It is by speaking with Muslims, listening to them and sharing our beliefs and our vulnerabilities that we will learn how to face the future with hope, becoming sensitive to the presence of God in those who interpret reality in ways that are radically different from our own.”
Let’s hope that in the coming months and years, the Centre can become a place for others to deepen their understanding of Islam and for Christians and Muslims to come together in dialogue and friendship.
Damian Howard SJ is Superior of the Hurtado Jesuit Centre and a lecturer at Heythrop College.
A new course will start in February 2016. Please see our What’s On page for more details of how to book a place.