[DFBF is a member of the Inter Faith Network]
Next week sees the marking of ten years since the 7/7 bombings in London. This is the anniversary of a profoundly disturbing moment in our recent history in the UK.
As that anniversary approaches, many will be gathering to remember those who died and pray for understanding, justice and peace.
On Friday, many British people were among those who met an appalling death in Tunisia, with others left seriously injured. Our thoughts and prayers are with them and their families and friends.
These attacks have in common with the murders of 7/7, the attempted justification of appalling acts in the name of Islam by their perpetrators. Despite their condemnation by Muslim organisations and individuals, this is an anxious time for many in the UK – not just because of the impact of overseas events on inter faith relations here but also because of the wider issues of extremism and radicalisation.
It is not just Muslims who suffer the impact of hatred and ignorance. Last week white supremacist Zack Davies was convicted of attempting to murder Dr Sarandev Bhambra of the Sikh community in Mold last year. And this coming weekend, a neo-Nazi rally is planned in Golders Green, on the Sabbath, in one of the areas with a very large Jewish community.
Inter faith initiatives at every level have an important role to play in offering reassurance and friendship at times of anxiety and solidarity where people feel under threat, in sustaining dialogue and also enabling discussions about the tough issues we face.
A one-day national meeting for local inter faith groups is being held on 30 July in London by IFN, following a similar day in Sheffield earlier this year. Responding to extreme voices will be among the topics. But so, too, will faith trails, working with local government, religious literacy, developing successful inter faith programmes and many other topics. That is a reminder that inter faith engagement is not just about responding to tension and difficulty or solidarity – vital though this is. It is also about continuing to plan, vision and act for a harmonious and peaceful present and future in the UK.
The Rt Revd Richard Atkinson OBE, Co-Chair
Vivian Wineman, Co-Chair
Dr Girdari L Bhan, Vice-Chair
Mohinder Singh Chana, Vice-Chair
Maulana M Shahid Raza OBE, Vice-Chair
The Venerable Bogoda Seelawimala, Vice-Chair