CIP is delighted that Professor Garth Fowden, Sultan Qaboos Professor of Abrahamic Faiths and Academic Director of the Cambridge Inter-faith Programme, has been elected a Fellow of the British Academy. The British Academy recognises scholarly excellence and prestige in the humanities and social sciences, and we congratulate Professor Fowden for his election to its distinguished fellowship. Professor Fowden’s research encompasses a range of topics centring on Eurasian late Antiquity, particularly the development of early Islam, rabbinic Judaism, and patristic Christianity. He is currently engaged in writing a large-scale history of the Eurasian First Millennium CE. Read more about his research here.
The workshop is open to everyone - religious and non-religious - and is a fantastic way to engage with and learn about religious scriptures from those of each faith. Moreover, as part of CIP's working with the British Museum during their up-coming 'Egypt: faith after the pharaohs' exhibition, all workshop attendees will be entered into a competition to win free exhibition tickets. Click here to attend the workshop or find out more about Scriptural Reasoning.
An exciting new course, taught by the Sultan Qaboos Professor of Abrahamic Faiths, Garth Fowden, is aimed at introducing third-year undergraduates in the Divinity Faculty to the study of First Millennium Judaism, Christianity and Islam in all their historical and intellectual interactions. The course is set against the background of the great empires of late Antiquity: Sasanid Iran, Rome and the Arab Caliphate. Particular attention will be given to the development of scripture-based exegetical communities and the cultivation of rational approaches to exegesis in order to bridge the dogmatic gap. For further information on the course see here. You can also buy Professor Fowden’s latest book: Before and after Muḥammad: The First Millennium Refocused (Princeton 2014).
After a fantastic summer of events, CIP embarks upon a new and exciting period this academic year. One of its key aims is to expand and strengthen its exploration of world faiths, including non-Abrahamic traditions. As part of this, we are particularly delighted that Dr Ankur Barua, specialist in Hinduism and the comparative philosophy of religion, has joined the team as its new Director.
After graduating with a B.Sc. in Physics from the University of Delhi, Dr Barua went on to read Theology and Religious Studies at Cambridge’s Faculty of Divinity, where he completed his Ph.D. on the symbolism of time and embodiment in St Augustine and Ramanuja. He is now a Lecturer in Hindu Studies at the Faculty.
We warmly welcome him on board, and look forward to contribution his expertise will make to CIP’s knowledge and understanding of world faiths.
The new academic year also saw the arrival of three further additions to the CIP team. Jane Horgan was appointed as External Relations Manager in September; while in October, Giles Waller and Chris Moses both joined as Research Associates. The team is very much looking forward to working together to broaden and enrich CIP’s research, public education, events, and communications in the months ahead.
The Cambridge University Students' Union (CUSU) Student-Led Teaching Awards are a unique opportunity for students to recognise the exceptional contribution those who teach and support them have made to their education. The Awards are organised by CUSU, and any student at Cambridge is able to nominate. The judging of the Awards is carried out by a panel of students.
The Awards and Commendations were presented at a ceremony at which students and staff celebrated the excellent teaching and student support which takes place everyday across the Collegiate University. We are delighted that Ankur has been recognised - particularly given that over 700 nominations were received in total - and offer him our warmest congratulations.
While I had already encountered the name ‘Charles Freer Andrews’ as an undergraduate student at the University of Delhi (Andrews taught there sometime around 1905), it was only much later at Cambridge that his pivotal role in south Asian anti-colonial movements, and his deep friendships with several key Hindu and Muslim figures in British India, gradually became clear to me.
While Mahatma Gandhi often referred to Andrews simply as CFA (‘Christ’s Faithful Apostle’), others called him Deena-bandhu (‘Friend of the Poor’) and an American missionary commented on the ‘Franciscan simplicity’ of his life and work in the subcontinent.
For Andrews, this was the simplicity that Christ calls humankind to adopt in the Sermon on the Mount, a purity of heart that he claimed was being enacted not by his fellow-English Christians but by a Muslim maulvi in Old Delhi, Zaka Ullah and by two Hindus, Mahatma Gandhi and Rabindranath Tagore. As he once wrote, ‘It became clear to me that I must take up a firm stand, even against my own fellow-countrymen and fellow-Christian, since as a Christian it was necessary to bear witness for Christ’s sake’.
Cambridge and Delhi
Andrews came up to Pembroke College, Cambridge in 1890, where he was influenced by the Johannine Christology of B.F. Westcott, the first President of the Christian Social Union.
The strong ‘incarnationist’ emphasis of Westcott’s theological outlook would structure Andrews’ interreligious friendships in British India, where he repeatedly emphasised that in the body of Christ there could be no divisions, whether imperial or racial or caste-based. Thus, he was instrumental in the appointment of S.K. Rudra in 1907 as the first Indian principal of St Stephen’s College, and quoting Galatians 3:28, he was already in 1940 calling for the ordination of women into the Anglican clergy.
Andrews found the Sermon’s call for a radical lived simplicity echoed in his two closest Hindu friends, Gandhi and Tagore, who from their distinctive Vedantic Hindu standpoints were trying to configure patterns of spiritual egalitarianism based on the belief in the imperishable Self (Atman). Andrews often pointed out certain parallels in the logic of racial superiority and caste-based discrimination, and he discerned the Christian commitment to equality reflected in the attempts of Gandhi and Tagore to dismantle the caste-structures of traditional Hindu universes.
Andrews noted that Gandhi and Tagore had helped him to go back to the Christ of the gospels, and that he would take up Christ’s cross so that anything that stood between his Englishness and complete oneness with Indians would be removed. He would be truly acting in the spirit of Christ, he believed, only by serving India in the manner of a Hindu monastic (sannyasi) – by giving up all worldly securities and trusting in nothing but Christ alone.
'Finding Christ on an Indian Road'
The theme of finding Christ on an Indian road reverberates throughout Andrews’ numerous writings on and letters to Gandhi and Tagore. Andrews believed that he had seen in Gandhi ‘the fulfilment in action of those ideals which as a Christian I longed to realise’. He understood Gandhi’s satyagraha as the enactment of Christ’s statement that the kingdom of God was not a dominion of this world based on force, domination, and aggression, and claimed that he had found, in the midst of Indian nationalists released from prison, Christ himself.
Andrews’ friendship was richly reciprocated by Gandhi who told a gathering in Lahore (present day Pakistan) at a highly volatile juncture of the anti-colonial struggle, ‘As long there is even one Andrews among the British people, we must, for the sake of such a one, bear no hatred to them’ (15 November 1919). And at Andrews’ death in 1940, he wrote: ‘When we met in South Africa [in 1914] we simply met as brothers and remained as such to the end’.
The depth of these affective bonds was replicated in Andrews’ friendship with Tagore who was in certain respects a very different person from Gandhi. Andrews met Tagore in London one evening in 1912 at the home of the painter William Rothenstein. Tagore, who had already heard about Andrews, clasped his hand and said, ‘Oh! Mr Andrews, I have so longed to see you’. Andrews believed that his friendship with Tagore had deep spiritual foundations, for he found his Christian emphasis on serving the ‘poorest of the poor’ reflected in the Hindu Vaishnava heritage of Tagore. He noted that Tagore’s poetry, which was infused with the love of natural beauty, had sent him back to the gospels, and that he had re-discovered, through Tagore, Christ’s own delight in little children, human friendships, and the innocence of birds of the air and lilies in the field.
When Andrews gave up his post at St Stephen’s College and followed Tagore to join his school in Shantiniketan (‘Abode of Peace’), he claimed that he was responding to a call to follow Christ and to express his teachings in a new way in an eastern land. Tagore welcomed Andrews to Shantiniketan as ‘a gift of the Lord’. Something of the intensity of their mutual affection is captured in these lines from a letter that Tagore, during his European journeys, wrote to Andrews:
"Before I finish this last letter to you, my friend, let me thank you with all my heart for your unfailing generosity in sending me letters all through my absence from India. They have been to me like a constant supply of food and water to a caravan travelling through a desert" (July 16, 1921).
Encounters with Islam
Somewhat unusually for Anglican missionaries at this time (whose ‘mission’ was directed primarily to Hindus), Andrews also cultivated deep friendships with some Muslim intellectuals of the ‘Delhi renaissance’, especially Zaka Ullah who devoted several decades of his life to preparing textbooks in science in Urdu, and was opposed to ‘Muhammadan isolation’ from Hindu environments.
Andrews wrote that Zaka Ullah, who demonstrated a complete freedom of anxiety for the future and a deep love of children, reminded him of the Sermon’s ‘peacemakers’, perhaps even more so because Zaka Ullah himself believed that the Sermon on the Mount was ‘‘Indian’ through and through’. Andrews was present at Zaka Ullah’s bedside when he died, and as he slowly slipped into the silence of death, his last words were prayers to Allah and words of affection, ‘beta, beta’ (‘my son, my son’!).
A 'heretic of the most dangerous kind'
Given the intensities of these interreligious friendships, it is perhaps not surprising that Andrews’ orthodoxy was often a matter of deep suspicion, not only for his Anglican superiors but also sometimes Indian Christians. He was aware that because of his association with Gandhi, he might be regarded as a ‘heretic of the most dangerous kind’, and he often encountered demands from Christian clerics that he clearly state his Christian convictions.
At a sermon preached in the Cathedral at Lahore in 1914, Andrews said:
"This, then, is what it means to be a Christian, to follow Christ; not the expression of an outward creed, but the learning of an inner life … I have found Christ in strange, unlooked-for-places, far beyond the boundary of sect or dogma, of church or chapel, far beyond the formal definition of man’s devising, or of man’s exclusive pride …"
He repeated this view around a quarter of a century later at the Conference of the International Missionary Council at Tambaram, south India:
"I have learned one lesson in all these nearly forty years I have been out here in the East, and that is, that one has to go beyond the bitterness … beyond the rising hatred in one’s heart on both sides, beyond the burning indignation in one’s hearts on both sides. One has to go farther – to the cross itself …"
Andrews’ conviction that the test of Christian living is the imitation of Christ was noted by many of his friends, whether Christian, Hindu or Muslim. Thus Tagore wrote in his Foreword to Andrews’ Sermon on the Mount: "His love for Indians was a part of that love of all humanity which he accepted as the Law of Christ".
Difference versus otherness
At least five decades before these terms became fashionable in the circles of postmodernism, Andrews was already actively ‘deconstructing’ the ‘binary oppositions’ between West versus East. Indeed, one reason why Andrews receives so little attention in academic scholarship is perhaps because it does not know what to do with a man who destabilises its pet theories of ‘Europe’ colonizing ‘Hindu minds’. Here is an Anglican priest who abandoned missionary work partly to protest against the ‘missionary imperialism’ that he saw being inflicted on his friend, S.K. Rudra, and who, according to K.T. Paul, himself an Indian Christian nationalist, knew India more intimately than any other Englishman.
The numerous interreligious friendships that structured, shaped, and sustained Andrews’ life continue to caution us, a century later, not to confuse difference with otherness.
Often, we allow ourselves to be satisfied with a passive respect based on mere indifference towards others, and thus do not work towards a more dynamic respect generated through active engagement with them. While we might know how to tick the right boxes under ‘how not to offend Jews’ and ‘what not to say to Muslims’, we often lapse into viewing other religious traditions in the manner of distant spectators inspecting exotic curiosities.
Andrews remained committed to his Christ to the very end, but his was a theology-in-action forged in the crucible of the heat and the dust of Hindustan that went beyond some of our current ‘not stepping on others’ toes’ passive modes of engagement with Hindus and Muslims.
For Christians, what might be a scriptural foundation for cultivating more interactive, more informed, and more humane encounters with the neighbour? Andrews would probably have answered: the Sermon’s call to radical discipleship, the call that he was enabled to hear by his Hindu friends Gandhi and Tagore during his long journeys through south Asia. The longest way, always, is the way back home.
Hear from the curator behind the exhibition as we uncover the rich and enlightening stories told by its many objects and the resonances they have for us today.
About the exhibition
A "magical dig into the past", the British Museum’s critically-acclaimed exhibition transports us beyond the pyramids to the Egypt of the First Millennium AD, when diverse religious communities lived alongside one another and transformed the land.
The objects on display "tell a rich and complex story of influences, long periods of peaceful coexistence, and intermittent tension and violence between Jews, Christians and Muslims".
British Museum curator Elisabeth R. O'Connell will present her illuminating perspective on the exhibition, followed by comments from key experts within the field including Dr James Aitken, Dr Simon Gathercole, Professor Garth Fowden, and Dr Ben Outhwaite. Free and open to all.
Monday 1 February, 5.30-7.15 pm
Faculty of Divinity, Cambridge
Free. Book now or turn up on the day.
The exhibition tells the story of Egypt during one of the most fascinating periods of its history, 30 BC to AD 1171, when Jews, Christians and Muslims lived alongside each other through "long periods of peaceful coexistence, and intermittent tension and violence". Its remarkable collection of objects provide "unparalleled access to the lives of individuals and communities" that formed a part of this rich and complex tale. Many are on display for the first time.
CIP is providing two opportunities to delve deeper into the scriptures of these different communities. Based around the themes of ‘Changing Landscapes’ and ‘Pilgrimage’, the workshops will be held in the museum on Sunday 15th and 22nd November, are completely free, and open to all of any or no faith. We’d love to see as many people there as possible – and if you’ve yet to try Scriptural Reasoning, now’s your chance!
Book for 'Changing Landscapes' at 2pm on Sunday 15 November.
Book for 'Pilgrimage' at 2pm on Sunday 22 November.
With partners: the Von Hügel Institute, St Mary's University Twickenham, Theos, Faith in Leadership, Christ Church Oxford and Georgetown University, CIP hosted a gathering of distinguished panellists and an invited audience to discuss pressing issues of the role of religion in statesmanship and international relations, and the role of religions in addressing religiously motivated violence as part of the Churchill 21st Century Statesmanship Global Leaders Programme.
2015 is the fiftieth anniversary of Sir Winston Churchill’s death and the seventy-fifth anniversary of his “finest hour” in 1940 when he became Prime Minister. To commemorate this anniversary the aim of this 21st century statesmanship programme, with Sir John Major as the Patron, is to provide a fitting tribute to Churchill’s memory and his legacy as a world statesman and to identify and respond to today’s top level strategic issues. World class organizations are gathering eminent international panels to examine big global strategic issues, to produce recommendations for leaders, future leaders, policymakers, academics, and global citizens, and to sponsor networks and activity that will reach beyond this anniversary year.
The first panel discussion: ‘Statesmanship in the Twenty-first Century: What about Religion?’ was chaired by Francis Campbell, Vice Chancellor of St Mary’s University, Twickenham, and former UK Ambassador to the Holy See, and Head of the Policy Unit in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Director of UKTI. Panellists were: Lord Martin Rees, former President of the Royal Society and recipient of the Templeton Prize; Mr Kamalesh Sharma, Secretary-General of the Commonwealth; Rabbi Harvey Belovski, Rabbi of Golders Green Synagogue, and a regular broadcaster on the BBC; Baroness Elizabeth Berridge, who served on the Joint Committee for Human Rights 2010-2015, and is the founding Chair of the All Party Group on International Freedom of Religion and Belief; Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, the first Muslim to serve in a British cabinet; Dr. Georgette Bennett, President and Founder of the Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding, and founder of the Multifaith Alliance for Syrian Refugees, and serving in the U.S. State Department Religion and Foreign Policy initiative working group on conflict mitigation.
The second panel discussed the question ‘The Global Covenant of Religions: A Path to Peace?’, and was chaired by Prof. David Ford, OBE, Regius Professor of Divinity and the Director of the Cambridge Inter-faith Programme. The Global Covenant of Religions is a commitment among religious communities to draw on the depth of their traditions to prevent violence in the name of religion and enable peace. It works to strengthen co-operation among religious organizations, governments and civil society in order to: protect civilians, mediate conflict, educate youth, and serve neighbours. Panellists were: Professor Peter Ochs, Edgar Bronfman Professor of Modern Judaic Studies at the University of Virginia, and co-founder of the Society for Textual Reasoning and The Society for Scriptural Reasoning. He served from 2012-14 at the U.S. Department of State as Academic Consultant on Religion and Violence, where he co-authored a training manual on religion and conflict; Professor Chinmay Pandya, Pro Vice Chancellor of Dev Sanskriti Vishwavidyalaya University (DSVV), and an academic psychiatrist; Mr. Jerry White, Executive Co-Chair, Global Covenant of Religions, Nobel Peace Prize winner, and former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, having launched the Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations created by Secretary Hilary Clinton; Ms. Barbara Walshe, chair of the Board of the Glencree Centre for Peace and Reconciliation in the Republic of Ireland, a leading international centre for peacemaking; Dr. Zaza Johnson Elsheikh, a leading expert and practitioner in mediation, conflict resolution, and restorative justice; Dr. Sayed Razawi, Director General of the Ulama Council in Europe, founding member of the Muslim Forum in the British Armed Forces.
The team of six experienced facilitators (Mr Syed Razawi, Miss Nadiya Takolia, Dr Daniel Weiss, Mrs Lindsey Taylor-Guthartz, Professor David Ford and Mrs Sarah Snyder) were warmly welcomed by the SEDOS-SVD organizing team and an enthusiastic group of participants. The workshop, which took place at the Centro Ad Gentes with spectacular views of Lake Nemi, had around forty five participants representing many different corners of the globe including India, Germany, Nigeria, Mexico and more.
Amongst the text themes which we reflected on together were ‘Covenant’ and ‘Neighbours’. The workshop also included a presentation on how SR can be adapted for different contexts such as chaplaincy, hospitals, schools and womens-only SR. And of course, there was plenty of time to discuss all things inter-faith over wonderful Italian food and coffee! It was an unforgettable time for both the Cambridge team and the participants, many of whom left feeling inspired, motivated and equipped to take SR forward in their respective communities.
CIP wishes to appoint an External Relations Officer (maternity cover) beginning 5th January 2015. This post is fixed-term for 7 months or the return of the post holder, whichever is the earlier. CIP is developing an extensive public education programme which is based in London and elsewhere. This role will include: co-ordinating and facilitating CIP's public education projects, representing CIP at events and conferences and sustaining existing relationships as well as brokering new ones, overseeing CIP's online and social media communications and handling enquiries and supporting and assisting both the work of the CIP's Scriptural Reasoning Co-ordinator and the work of the Director in his fundraising and benefactor-relations portfolio. Candidates should have a degree in a relevant discipline, excellent interpersonal and communication skills and a high level of IT and internet literacy. The External Relations Officer will be expected to have an understanding of at least one of the three Abrahamic faiths and to show an interest in relations and encounter between the faiths. For further information and how to apply please see here
This vacancy is now closed for applications.
Each summer, the Cambridge Inter-faith Programme brings together an international group of emerging religious leaders from Islamic, Christian and Jewish backgrounds for an intensive period of immersion in inter-faith and cross-cultural encounter, to resource practical peacemaking and conflict-transformation efforts. The bedrock of the programme is the practice of inter-faith (SR). Students receive intensive training in SR; they are offered a series of lectures delivered by specialist academics and peacemakers; and they are facilitated in a process of teaching one another about aspects of their traditions. Most importantly, students have the opportunity to get to know, and learn from, their fellow participants. Each year the Summer School receives a delegation of emerging religious leaders from the Sultanate of Oman, a key supporter of the programme, as well as students selected from a wide variety of countries from around the world.
The Summer School is an opportunity for inter-faith engagement that draws upon CIP's ethos, to serve practical peacemaking efforts. We explore the resources that each tradition offers for peaceful and serious engagement with the others, and look for the forms of coexistence and friendship that are possible between traditions that remain distinct and different. Coming to agreement on theology, politics or any other subject is not our aim, nor is the creation of some neutral middle ground; rather the aim is to learn to live well with disagreement, and to disagree more peacefully, fruitfully and intelligently.
What past students say:
"The Cambridge Inter-faith Programme Summer School changed my vision on inter-faith experiences. I had never before encountered an inter-faith program quite like it. The ability to live, dine, converse, become friends, and network with a global connection of people from the three monotheistic religions in such a fantastic, peaceful environment is not something that can be easily replicated. The program is a success. I personally formed four close relationships last summer. These newfound friends will be that way for the rest of my life, of that I am sure. If I were an Imam and facing a problem in my community, I would first turn to these friends to seek their advice before turning to other Imams, because they have a different view and are a resource that is trusted and invaluable. This alone is tribute to the success of the program: the fact that people of different backgrounds and faiths can genuinely form friendships and care about one another and trust them enough to seek their advice." Muslim student and graphic designer, Jordan
“I found CIP's Summer School to be a wonderful experience. I had never spent any sustained time studying and engaging with such a diverse group of religious people, and it really broadened my understanding of the similarities between our religions, which are so seldom the focus of any discussion in the public sphere. I really valued the opportunity to build a network of emerging religious leaders that I can tap into at any time in my future as a Jewish professional, teacher, and/or leader.” Rabbinical Student, USA
The CIP summer school 2013 was for me one of the biggest things to have happened in my life. It brought me face to face with people of other faiths, especially Muslims, for the first time. And in fact, it has changed my view and perspective of Muslims, and I know it is forever! The SR for me was my first experience, and I commit to carry it back home to my country, but more important for me is the friendship and bond that comes out of SR sessions. I have many Muslim friends now and I know we are going to go a long way. They have given me the courage to seek for peace with my Muslim neighbours. I came here thinking that my tradition was the sole possessor of ' the truth', but having done SR with others and discussed their texts, I've discovered that they hold such powerful level of truth, and I ask myself 'why are we fighting?' And I have made up my mind to carry the message of SR, and CIP wherever I go, for the rest of my life. Consider me a 'CIP ambassador-for-life!' Christian Pastor, Nigeria
2014 CIP Summer School - Application Details
The Summer School is intended for people who are working towards a position of leadership, especially in a religious context. This could mean that you are a student or are in training for religious leadership, ministry or teaching of any kind. It could mean that you already have a formal or informal leadership position in your community. Or it could mean that you hope to have a position of leadership in your community in the future. Applicants should have an interest in inter-faith engagement, but they do not need any prior inter-faith experience. We particularly encourage applicants who live or work (or intend to live or work) in a region of conflict or tension between religious groups.
The Summer School offers an environment of respectful enquiry in which students can explore complex and sometimes controversial aspects of their own faiths and those of others. It is a challenging, immersive programme, and students must be committed to the aims of the programme and willing to participate wholeheartedly.
Prospective applicants can find out more about CIP's approach to inter-faith encounters here.
Costs of tuition, accommodation, on-site meals, activities and visits will be covered by the Cambridge Inter-faith Programme. Students will be asked to pay a deposit of £250 - refundable upon completion of the Summer School. They will need to source their own funds to cover their travel to and from Cambridge, and to cover a small number of meals and optional expenses during free time. Applicants who are concerned about meeting these costs should state this in their application. The CIP team will be in touch with these applicants, if they are accepted onto the programme, to discuss financial assistance.
A delegation of religious leaders from the Sultanate of Oman joins the Summer School each year and contributes significantly to the programme’s cross-cultural learning experience. In order to fully accommodate this delegation, we seek applicants to the programme who have Arabic skills and who are willing to take on the role of Arabic-speaking Facilitators. Their primary role will be that of translation in small-group sessions and, when necessary, in lectures. They will serve as a crucial link in the international student body, helping increase understanding between fluent English speakers and Arabic speakers. Arabic-speaking Facilitators will be supported in their role by the Summer School staff.
The next CIP Summer School takes place 22 July – 7 August 2015 in Madingley Hall, University of Cambridge.
Applications for the 2015 Summer School will open in January 2015 and will advertised here. If you are interested in finding out about the 2015 Summer School, please send an email to email@example.com.
Applications are now open for CIP's 2015 international summer school. Learn more about the summer school and find out how to apply on our summer school web page. The deadline for applications is Friday 13th February.
London aspires to be the home of a landmark centre for visitors to celebrate the diversity of the world’s faiths and build understanding and respect across divides.
The vision for “Coexist House” was launched at a dinner at the Mansion House in October 2013 by Professor David Ford OBE, Director of the Cambridge Inter-faith Programme, in the presence of the Lord Mayor, Alderman Roger Gifford, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, the Attorney General, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Chief Rabbi. It has been developed, over several years, by Cambridge University’s Inter-faith Programme and the Coexist Foundation. The project's website is www.coexisthouse.org.uk
In his speech, Professor David Ford paid tribute to the initiative of the Lord Mayor and City of London Corporation in supporting this vision. “Religion is one of the world’s key challenges, both locally and globally. … It is no longer viable to ‘not do God’” said Professor David Ford. “We’re not good at talking about religion in the UK and yet its crucial for our communities and businesses to be more religiously literate in a globalised society. It is our desire and duty to break down prejudice and build understanding between faiths. … (Coexist House) will be part exhibition centre, media hub, sacred space, museum, place for meeting and, above all, learning. You will leave Coexist House challenged, changed and inspired.”
Communities Secretary Eric Pickles said:
“Faith groups are a tremendous force for good. The efforts of people from all faiths in communities, in serving and supporting their neighbours should be recognised, valued and celebrated. People of faith are at their strongest when working together and Coexist House could be a great force for good in promoting understanding between different faith groups.”
Alderman Roger Gifford is also enthusiastic about the potential for Coexist House, and is proud of the City’s contribution to diversity of all kinds. “This evening has been a dialogue that recognises and values difference – with faith as one important element of difference. I can think of no better place than London to share that dialogue – a city of cultures where all faiths are represented and valued. “London is also the marketplace of the world and for that marketplace to thrive it must be the marketplace of and for all nations. Difference means diversity and diversity means new ideas, creativity and innovation – something which all businesses need. This diversity is part of our strength, which is deepened by dialogue and the mutual respect that grows from that dialogue.”
In partnership with The Victoria and Albert Museum, the Honourable Society of the Inner Temple and the Coexist Foundation, Professor Ford has asked for creative and financial support to turn the “exciting vision of Coexist House into a compelling reality.” The Archbishop of Canterbury, Princess Badiya, Lord Justice Rix and leading academics and other faith and City leaders lent their support to the project.
The objective of this role is to guide a young project with a big dream, from its early start-up days, towards operating as a sustainable and flourishing organisation, ready to meet its ambitious goals.
About Coexist House
Coexist House will be a new global centre in the heart of London for transforming public understanding about the practices and perspectives of the word's religions. In doing so, it will have a transformative impact on the quality of debate surrounding religion and will promote better, more peaceful, relationships across divides.
Working with the Coexist House Trustees (who comprise senior representatives of the founding partners and others) and reporting directly to the Head of the Faculty of Divinity in Cambridge, the Project Lead will work towards the goal of creating Coexist House. At the helm of a small team, the Project Lead will manage the project's budget and infrastructure, planning its development for the coming years. The post-holder will consider options for a physical space for Coexist House, and will oversee a programme of Coexist House 'Without Walls' events. The role of the Project Lead will be as Coexist House's lead advocate, fundraising and widening the pool of its supporters. He or she will have overall responsibility for Coexist House's communications and relationships and will support the Trustees in their fundraising efforts, and where appropriate will work to grow and develop their Board and sub-committees.
The successful candidate will have a passion for the cause of deepening public understanding of religion, although their experience may be in a complementary field. Representing the University of Cambridge on behalf of Coexist House, he or she will be a believer in the value of academic research for public-facing projects. The person appointed will be expected to have a good honours degree, experience of fundraising and strategic planning, and skills in managing projects.
Working on a visionary project with an exciting roster of tools, supporters and contacts at its disposal, you will be a driven self-starter who can run with opportunities and can deploy excellent planning, communication and leadership skills.
Deadline for applications: 20 June 2016
G. Roland Biermann will be discussing his latest project, Stations, with Aaron Rosen, Terence Rodrigues and Giles Waller. Dr. Aaron Rosen, project curator of Stations - Art and Passion, lectures at King‘s College, London and is the author of the award-winning publication Art+Religion in the 21st Century. Terence Rodrigues, former lecturer at Oxford University and director at Christie‘s is an art historian, art critic and lecturer. He is also editor of the Fine Arts Journal Middle East. Giles Waller is a Research Associate at Cambridge Interfaith Programme and editor of Christian Theology and Tragedy: Theologians, Tragic Literature and Tragic Theory.
Georg Friedrich Haas‘ String Quartet No. 3 will be performed by the Alke Quartet, London immediately after the talk: Soh-yon Kim, Violin 1, Elise Harper, Violin 2, Karen French, Cello, Ben Harrison, Viola.
Please join us for this event on 21st March 2016, 18:00
The event is free. Reservation is recommended due to limited seating.
Please register at www.stationsofthecrossconcert.eventbrite.co.uk St. Giles‘ Church, St. Giles‘ Terrace, Barbican, London eC2Y 8da
"The deepest secret of CIP is long term friendships across faith traditions that have enabled all sorts of joint initiatives and risk-taking, and continue to do so." - Professor David Ford
In 2008, Professor Ford was awarded the Sternberg Foundation's Gold Medal for Inter-Faith relations; and in 2011, he won the Coventry Peace Prize for his work with Scriptural Reasoning.
“CIP has been blessed with an outstanding group of benefactors. They did far more than give money, and became part of the collegiality of the programme, often being most imaginative and far-sighted.”
As a fundraiser for CIP and the Faculty of Divinity, Professor Ford has displayed limitless drive and initiative, connecting with others through his warmth and charisma. As a teacher, he continues to inspire countless individuals – both students and members of the public – to engage more deeply and wisely with different faith traditions. As a writer and researcher, he has contributed invaluable perspectives and insights across the fields of inter-faith theology and relations, scriptural interpretation, and many others.
We cannot thank Professor Ford enough for his energy, insight, and guidance over the last thirteen years, and wish him the very best for his retirement.
He is replaced as Director by Dr Ankur Barua, Lecturer in Hindu studies at the Faculty of Divinity and expert in Hinduism and the comparative philosophy of religion.
Giles Waller joined CIP in September 2014 as Research Associate to the Director. Giles read Theology and Religious Studies at Peterhouse, Cambridge and has a particular interest in the theological reception of Greek tragedy in comparison with Martin Luther’s theology of the cross.
Additionally, he assists the Director of CIP, Professor David Ford, in his research and also handles correspondence related to Professor Ford’s work on CIP projects. Giles read Theology and Religious Studies at Peterhouse, Cambridge, where he also completed an MPhil. His doctoral research, also at Peterhouse, focused on the borderlands of Christian doctrine, literature, and philosophy, looking at the theological reception of Greek tragedy, with a particular comparative interest in Martin Luther’s theology of the cross. In 2011, along with Kevin Taylor, Giles edited a collection that brought together theologians and literary scholars, Christian Theology and Tragedy: Theologians, Tragic Literature and Tragic Theory (Ashgate), to which he contributed an essay on the role of tragedy in the work of Donald MacKinnon.
About the Inter Faith Network
The Inter Faith Network for the UK - of which the Cambridge Inter-faith Programme is a member - works to promote understanding, cooperation and good relations between organisations and persons of different faiths in the UK.
IFN is offering an opportunity for a 6 month internship to help on projects such as national Inter Faith Week, local inter faith support and engagement, the development of materials sharing case studies and good practice, and a range of other projects. This is a fulltime, paid, internship at the London Living Wage from 15 September 2016 until 15 March 2017.
If you are interested in finding out more, please email Hannah Cassidy at firstname.lastname@example.org and she can email you further information and an application form. The closing date for receipt of application forms is 5 July.
More information about the Inter Faith Network can be found online at www.interfaith.org.uk.
In May 2016, CIP's partner organisation Cambridge Institute on Religion and International Studies hosted The Revd Dr James Walters for an event on 'Deproblematising Religious Diversity: A University Case Study'. Walters studied at the Divinity Faculty for both his undergraduate degree and doctorate, and has since collaborated with CIP. Following the discussion, Research Associate Chris Moses spoke to Walters about his thoughts on the challenges and opportunities posed by religious diversity on university campuses.
Chris Moses: Can you tell us a bit about your professional trajectory, including your role at the LSE Faith Centre?
The Revd Dr James Walters: What I love about my role at the LSE is that it’s gathered together all strands from my life so far: a love of priestly ministry, academic interests, and experience in politics. And I guess the new thing that was added through this role has been engagement in interfaith relations, which I had some experience of before, but it has really developed in a new way at the LSE.
CM: Can you give some background about the establishment of the LSE Faith Centre?
JW: I think it came out of discussions that began at the LSE after the 7/7 bombings in London, which generated a lot of anxiety about religious cohesion within the city more broadly, and on the LSE campus. That also coincided with the incorporation of religion and belief into the Equality Act, which was passed in 2010. So, there was a perceived need for some kind of facility to make it possible for religious people to express their faith on the campus.
What I have sought to add since I took up post has been the slightly more constructive agenda of seeing the opportunities presented by a very diverse international study body for developing religious understanding and interfaith cohesion as a preparation for graduation into a world where religious conflict is very much on the agenda.
CM: What have been the greatest challenges to date?
JW: There are often moments of crisis, and they require a constructive response. They might relate to events in the wider world, such as the killing of drummer Lee Rigby or the attack on Gaza, which generate repercussions for the LSEstudent body.
But I would say the more ongoing challenge has been the cultural shift in terms of LSE’s engagement with religion, and particularly those who were concerned that a secular institution was being made ‘religious’ through the creation of this Centre. What I’ve sought to do is explain that if there’s been a shift it’s been in our understanding of secularism, moved from a programmatic secularism which has sought to say, ‘We don’t want to engage with religion in any way at LSE’, towards a procedural secularism, which acknowledges the fact that we are not a confessional university and there is no privilege according to one religious faith, but we can seek to negotiate provision and opportunity for all the different religious and non-religious perspectives within the student body.
CM: How do you reach out to those espousing exclusivist accounts of religion, and would not ordinarily be interested in something like the LSE Faith Centre?
JW: We’re very explicit about our agenda. We do not want to get everybody to agree, as if we could distill all these religious perspectives into something we can all share. That was the old agenda of interfaith relations, which is fortunately no longer in vogue.
Being the LSE, we’re trying to be quite pragmatic about it. We’re looking at a world where there is an escalation in religious violence, and we’re saying, ‘We want to reduce this, and we think an important way to do this is simply understand what other people believe, and to deepen respect people have for other positions’. And to say that, we need to do that in honesty, so we want people to bring the fullness of their beliefs and their perspectives to the table.
CM: How does the Faith Centre balance its positive perspective on faith with a meaningful engagement with the many problems associated with religion?
JW: The Centre is founded upon a positive vision of the kind of the world of religious coexistence and understanding that we want to see, and everything we do is working towards that. But, if we don’t open up some cans of worms along the way, then we’re not being honest about how to realise the vision. That includes asking the difficult questions about the treatment of women in faith communities, attitudes towards lesbian gay bisexual transgender people, uses and abuses of scripture, and of course, religious violence. So we’re seeking to have those kinds of conversations respectfully, and without the judgement of secular assumptions, but pursuing the agenda of this positive vision.
CM: You’ve had experience of both Cambridge and the LSE. How would you compare the place of chaplaincy in these institutions?
JW: I sometimes feel very grateful that I am chaplain in a secular university, where the engagement with religion is quite a new development. So, we’ve been able to do that without some of the baggage that other confessional universities will have, such as how we stay faithful to our traditions while also expanding. There have been questions for us but of a different order because we are a secular university.
I suppose that for a university with a church heritage like Cambridge the task is different, but there are also advantages. There is already a discourse around religion present, and there are already resources around campus for engaging in a broader conversation about religious pluralism and conflict.
But I think the challenge must be how to develop and expand a Christian heritage that has itself been contested in various ways over the years into something that is responsive to both a more religiously diverse student body and a world where we have to take the non-Christian religions more seriously. And that’s a challenge not just for Oxbridge chapels and chaplains, but for the Church of England more broadly.
CM: What is the future trajectory of interfaith relations on campus?
JW: All the evidence points to a more difficult situation. Religion seems to be increasingly contentious in the politics of the National Union of Students, and within universities themselves in many places. But, I hope that we’re modelling something constructive that can at least contextualise those disagreements, and put some energy into a more constructive engagement with religious difference on campus.
*Please note this interview also appears on the Cambridge Institute on Religion and International Studies (CIRIS) website.
*Top photograph: The Sacred Desert window by Christopher Le Brun, in the building's Faith Centre. Photograph by Nigel Stead/LSE Images.
“Beginning a new job in a new city is exciting and nerve-wracking at the same time, but I was warmly welcomed to the CIP team in March this year and got stuck into learning about Scriptural Reasoning and inter-faith more broadly. Four months have flown by and we’ve delivered Scriptural Reasoning to a wide range of groups, got online SR up and running via our Nurani.org platform, and designed a training programme for facilitating Scriptural Reasoning. One of the highlights of the past few months has been setting up a regular group in Cambridge. We have a busy summer planned with the CIP Summer School and several Scriptural Reasoning demonstrations planned for the Greenbelt Festival. Looking even further ahead to the autumn, we will be delivering Open Scriptural Reasoning Workshops at the Cambridge Alumni Festival and the Festival of Ideas. Our hope is that individuals and groups become equipped with the tools and skills they need to establish this powerful inter-faith practice in their own communities."
The conference is being supported by the Cambridge Inter-faith Programme, the Woolf Institute, and the Kirby Laing Institute for Christian Ethics.
The conference will feature world-renowned keynote speakers including:
- Lord Maurice Glasman - Founder, Blue Labour, Director of Faith and Citizenship Programme, London Metropolitan University
- Professor Peter Mandaville - Senior Adviser to Office of Religion & Global Affairs (US Dept of State), Professor of Government and Politics, George Mason University
- Professor Nicholas Adams - Professor of Philosophical Theology, University of Birmingham
- Professor Mona Siddiqui, OBE - Professor of Islamic & Interreligious Studies, University of Edinburgh
CIP Director Dr Ankur Barua will also speak.
Saturday 21 May, 2016, 9.30-17.30
Click here to register (closes 12 May 2016)
About the conference
As public awareness has grown concerning religion’s persistent influence in shaping world affairs, an implicit consensus appears to have been reached in how to distinguish between those religious adherents whose faith is expressed constructively – ‘moderates’ – and those whose faith is expressed destructively – ‘radicals’ or ‘extremists’.
But is this a sufficiently discriminating distinction? Does it construe the relationship between religion and violence to be one of degree – the more religious a person is, the more likely they are to support or engage in violent acts in the name of their faith? Moreover, does the terminology reflect particular biases towards specific religions, such that use or application of the term ‘radical’ (or perhaps event more likely, ‘moderate’) is more likely to be applied to some religions (e.g. Islam) than others (e.g. Christianity).
This interdisciplinary conference is focused on exploring the development of this terminology, the assumptions upon which it rests regarding religion’s relationships with other ideologies or commitments.
On 10 March, members of many different faiths - including Jews, Christians, Muslims - came together to explore the topic of 'refugees' within Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Led by the Cambridge Inter-faith Programme, the workshop presented key texts dealing with the issue of refugees from each faith tradition. Introductions to each text were presented by key members of each faith - including William Cochrane, the International Secretary to the Chief of Staff at the Salvation Army - after which the participants divided into smaller groups to discuss the texts more closely.
The event was, however, made particularly unique through its incorporation of art, which offered a complementary and thought-provoking perspective on the refugee crisis. Participants had the chance to view stirring and challenging installation 'Sea of Colour' by Güler Ates, who created the piece with the help of women from local refugee groups. 'Sea of Colour' - which connects the suffering of refugees with that of Jesus, particularly the moment when he is stripped of his clothes - is currently being exhibited in the Salvation Army Headquarters as part of London's 'Stations of the Cross' exhibition.
The coming together of inter-faith dialogue, art, and expertise from multiple quarters made for an inspiring, significant evening that CIP felt privileged to be a part of.
It’s 8am and the smell of coffee and porridge is wafting up the stairs. I make my way down the higgledy piggledy staircase of this big comfortable house, and join a table in the dining room. There, the Imam of a large congregation in the Midlands is in deep conversation about the refugee crisis with an Archdeacon. The head of a Jewish international aid charity contributes her thoughts before being pulled away by a Rabbi colleague because the kosher breakfasts have arrived. At five similar tables in the room, conversations - thoughtful, political and light-hearted - between Muslim, Christian and Jewish religious and community leaders, journalists, teachers and charity heads, are playing out. Whether discussing how best to care for bereaved congregants, being astounded by one another’s ways of thinking about God, or comparing family photographs, these interactions are forging deep bonds between some of our country’s most influential faith leaders. There is only one place in the UK that this scene could be playing out, and that is the Senior Faith Leadership Programme.
Now in its fourth year of running, the SFLP (formally CCLP, the Cambridge Coexist Leadership Programme) has brought together close to 100 religious leaders from across the UK. The participants gather three times during their year-long programme, each time for a 3 day ‘residential’. It has been hosted in the impressive yet intimate St George’s House, within the grounds of Windsor Castle, with St George’s as a key project partner; these environs give a sense of being in a rare bubble, but one which will have quite an impact when it pops in the world outside. One of the Christian leaders on the programme, an RAF Chaplain, describes it as “living, learning and sharing in community for a precious few days”. The participants are together from first thing in the morning (prayer for Muslim participants – others invited to observe – was recently at 4:49am) until last thing at night, with programming often finishing after 10pm. There is down time too of course. Guided walks around Windsor Castle, long mealtimes, and evenings off with options of relaxing in either the alcohol-free sitting room, or one with an honesty bar, provide opportunities to hear about one another’s lives, views and communities. Plenty of social time is built in because the not-so-well-kept secret of the programme is that however good the sessions are – and we think they’re very good – the really important lasting effect of SFLP is found in the relationships between participants.
"The Cambridge Coexist Leadership Programme exceeded my expectations. The programme had a very diverse group of truly inspirational individuals, both participating and presenting, offering different insights beyond what I am accustomed to. Every session is highly customized and carefully thought through to address the important leadership issues that religious leaders face. The most beneficial part of the CCLP has been learning about the different meanings of leadership and the most effective ways of engaging with one's own community, with other communities, and with the wider secular and religious context.
The CCLP provided me the opportunity to be with ideological, prominent religious leaders and activists of different faiths who challenged each other, shared best practices with each other and helped each other to be self-reflective. CLLP, therefore, has given me something beyond skills and models of leadership. It has given me an opportunity to form fellowship and friendship with a diverse and stimulating group of leaders. The friendships we have formed and the mutual trust developed between participants will give me the confidence to work with leaders from across communities for the mutual benefit of our communities.
The Cambridge Coexist Leadership Programme is a great investment in the future. I would recommend it to all faith leaders!”
Qari Muhammad Asim MBE
Imam, Makkah Mosque Leeds
And there have been some astonishing relationships built during the programme. In particular, a number of surprising Jewish-Muslim collaborations have emerged. We could think about two female participants, one a Rabbi and the other a Muslim religious leader, who stood on stage together addressing a G8 summit, the Orthodox Rabbi who said he could have never imagined feeling so close to a Muslim religious leader and now regularly hosts Muslim guests for Shabbat, or the dozens of reciprocal invitations to conferences, festivals and places of worship. Most unexpected has been the intra-faith relationships formed between participants from different denominations of the same religion who, outside this safe space, would be unlikely to talk and collaborate. Participants of the programme have jointly organised inter-faith pilgrimage marches, an inter-faith vigil after the Woolwich murder, conversations in the wake of troubles in the Middle East and closer to home, and networks to keep their relationships current and strong. Invitations to weddings and festive meals regularly fire around participant groups, and alumni continue to organise reunions and retreats. These relationships are the most important outcome of the SFLP and will last long after the buzz of the programme itself ends, with impossible-to-measure ripples of impact.
“The experience of being a student of the CCLP programme has been very helpful for me as a community leader within the Jewish community. I have learned techniques for resolving difficult issues that I have already put into practice in a number of environments. I have built my confidence in working with the media, helping to share Jewish values in London and the UK. I have also, I feel learned to be better at dealing with uncertainty, which helps me to innovate in my community and beyond.
Because of the unique way in which the CCLP programme is run it has both broadened and deepened my work with others. I have got to know many Muslim community leaders through the programme and worked with them already outside the times of programme. Our Synagogue is hosting a number of these leaders over the coming months helping our congregation of 3000 to get to understand issues which challenge the Muslim community. I feel that this will be transformative and help to create relationships which mean we can work with each other at bad times as well as good.
The depth has come also from the relationships which blossomed between the Jewish students of the programme of several denominations. It is unusual for Reform and Orthodox Rabbis to study together and through CCLP we did. Since the time of the programme and due to the relationships created over mealtimes, walks and through learning together we have worked with our local Orthodox Synagogue over a local crisis which affected us both. This would not have happened without us Rabbis knowing each other through the programme. I know that CCLP lessons and relationships will be part of my Rabbinate for many years and expect them to deepen through the alumni programme. I look forward to recommending colleagues to apply for the programme themselves.”
Rabbi Mark Goldsmith
North Western Reform Synagogue
So what is the magical formula to create such powerful and counter-intuitive networks of very different leaders? What happens on the Senior Faith Leadership Programme which bonds participants together so effectively? Running throughout the programme is Scriptural Reasoning – naturally, given the Cambridge Inter-faith Programme’s involvement with the programme. The participants study texts from the Qur’an, Bible and Tankah, on the theme of Leadership, side by side. A recent module looked at Moses as a self-doubting and despairing leader, alongside a Gospel story in which Jesus teaches his disciples a lesson in humility, alongside a Qur’anic tract in which Moses appeals to Allah to grant him the skills necessary to approach Pharaoh.
Scriptural Reasoning, however, is the only ‘religious’ content in the programme – the participants are far better at teaching one another about the nuances of their beliefs and communities than the faculty could hope to be. The remainder of the programme focuses on leadership skills, with mini-lectures on subjects from group dynamics to navigating conflicting polarities, negotiation exercises and plenty of participant-led structured conversation. There is an entire module dedicated to media, in which participants can learn how to draft a script for a God-slot broadcast, or are briefed on dealing with a journalist looking for a sensationalist story. The programme gathers leading politicians, academics and religious figures to address the group either formally or in an after-dinner slot. The aim is to create leaders who are better than before at what they do in their own communities, in addition to having a new window to the leaders of very different communities. The testimonials speak for themselves, but we believe that SFLP creates the necessarily high-level atmosphere in which significant relationships between extraordinary people can be forged across divides.
"I was hugely enriched by the programme's trinity of leadership development, scriptural reasoning and media training, but even more enriched by the making of friendships across the diversity represented from within Christianity, Judaism and Islam. In a world plagued by violence, CCLP gave me hope that it is from the depths of our traditions that we shall find the resources we need to make peace within and between the faiths, for the good of our society and the whole world."
Canon Steven Saxby
Executive Officer, London Churches Social Action
Vicar, Walthamstow St Barbabas Church
Looking back over the first four years of the programme, we have come a long way. While the UK has many excellent inter-faith dialogue initiatives, this leadership programme was aiming to do something different. We wanted to attract leaders who might not have otherwise considered speaking to a religious leader from another faith, as well as those who had experience in inter-faith dialogue. And we wanted to immerse them in a time-intensive residential programme away from their families and communities. So to break into new religious worlds, and establish the trust needed to take leaders away from their hectically busy lives for almost nine days of the year, was a big ask. We needed very quickly to establish a solid reputation which would make recruiting at a high level a possibility in future. And we needed to communicate methods and messages like Scriptural Reasoning without plunging our participants far beyond their comfort zones. We have achieved this, as well as more than we could possibly have hoped, something evidenced by the numbers of high-level leaders who want to participate in an SFLP and the extent to which our alumni take forwards the networks they have build. So much of this success is due to the creativity and leadership of the course Director, Krish Raval of Faith in Leadership. Krish brings his own considerable leadership skills and expertise to bear in the programme, and has gathered a stellar Faculty of religious leaders, community leadership experts and alumni of the programme to lead the SFLP.
“The CCLP course is a true life-changer: it provides an extraordinary space within which the deeply ingrained similarities and humanness of people stemming from differing and perceived ‘hostile’ faiths is permitted to come to the fore, enabling genuine friendships based on deeper understandings to be established between those that may otherwise have never met. For myself – as one who has never considered herself a ‘faith’ leader, nor even a leader – it has strengthened not only a self-belief in my own capacities, but my faith in the power of human beings to work towards a greater good despite all religious difference. To live, eat, work alongside and learn from such fountains of knowledge as rabbis, priests, imams, philanthropists, academics and social pioneers, is an experience that has already impacted both my private and professional lives in ways I had never envisioned nor could have anticipated. I ‘leave’ the CCLP feeling as though I will never truly leave, for I am now backed by a whole army of new friends from all walks of life who I have a deep trust of, and genuine care for: friends made up of both my fellow ‘students’ and the faculty whose unending dedication, passion and generosity make the CCLP what it is – positively phenomenal."
Founder & CEO, Making Herstory
So where next? With an alumni group of around 100, we want to work with this incredibly powerful network of people, allowing them to make connections across year groups. We are exploring the possibility of taking this proven model overseas, and in particular have been approached regarding creating a women-only programme in the Middle East. The future is brimming with possibilities, but for now, we look forward to watching the impact made by 100 British Muslim, Christian and Jewish leaders, with address books full of friends whose religious lives are radically different to their own.
Co-curator Dr Aaron Rosen – author of one of the Times’ best books of 2015 ‘Art and Religion in the 21st Century’ – will be joined by contributing artist G. Roland Biermann and a panel of distinguished Cambridge-based experts including emeritus Professor of the History of Christianity and author of renowned book 'The Stripping of the Altars' Eamon Duffy.
A panel-based discussion - chaired by Emeritus Professor of Italian and English Literature Robin Kirkpatrick - will be followed by an audience Q&A and a chance to meet the participants over light refreshments.
The event is free of charge and open to everyone.
About ‘Stations of the Cross’
‘Stations of the Cross’ is a unique art exhibition spread across fourteen iconic London locations. Weaving through religious as well as secular spaces, from cathedrals to museums, the exhibition uses works of art to tell the story of the Passion in a new way, for people of diverse faiths and backgrounds. Artwork by Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and non-religious artists are all incorporated, connecting the Passion with its modern day resonances –particularly the hazardous journeys of refugees from today’s Middle East.
This Lent, CIP is working with Co-Curators Dr Aaron Rosen of King’s College London and artist Terry Duffy to present ‘Stations of the Cross’, a unique art exhibition spread across fourteen iconic London locations.
Weaving through religious as well as secular spaces, from cathedrals to museums, the exhibition uses works of art to tell the story of the Passion in a new way, for people of diverse faiths and backgrounds. Artwork by Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and non-religious artists are all incorporated, connecting the Passion with its modern day resonances –particularly the hazardous journeys of refugees from today’s Middle East.
“The narrative of the Passion, embodied through these 14 impressive works of art, provides a powerful encouragement to think about not only the suffering of Jesus in this Lenten season, but the suffering of innocent people around the world.” - His Eminence Cardinal Vincent Nichols.
Use of an online interactive map, app, and podcasts for each installation will enable visitors to take the journey for themselves, experiencing each Station in their own time and in any order they choose. There are also a number of events taking place across London in connection with the exhibition.
We are very excited to be a part of this unique project. We hope you will take a moment to experience it for yourselves and engage with the exhibition on Facebook and Twitter. Look out in particular for the exhibition's Twitter trail at 1pm on Wednesday 10 February!
Wednesday 10 February (Ash Wednesday) – Monday 28 March (Easter Monday).
Fourteen locations across London. See the exhibition’s website for more details.
I first had the idea for the Stations of the Cross exhibition when I was preparing my book 'Art and Religion in the 21st Century'.
During my research into contemporary images of Jesus, I came across fascinating works from artists from a wide range of backgrounds. In addition to works by practicing Christians, I found numerous pieces by atheists, such as Wim Delvoye, who reenacted the Stations of the Cross using X-rays of dead rodents! There were also a number of Jewish artists, including Leni Diner Dothan, who created a series of sensitive self-portraits of herself with her young son as Christ. And perhaps even more surprising were artists like Zhang Huan and Lachlan Warner, who found ways to blend the symbolism of Christianity with Buddhist concepts and iconography.
My interest in the theme of the Stations of the Cross crystallized over Lent last year. My wife Dr Carolyn Rosen was then in the discernment process to become an Anglican priest, and religion was unsurprisingly a big topic at the dinner table. In fact, even our adorable Newfoundland got drafted into our dinner debates. I, of course, insisted Ramsey was a Jew like me and would be celebrating Passover with a little matzoh crumbled into his dog food. Carolyn had the strong suspicion Ramsey (named after her favorite Archbishop, Michael Ramsey) was actually a Christian. Out of this joking around, we got to discussing the opportunities and problems that arise when Christians celebrate Passover, and what sensitivities this brings up. We co-wrote an article for The Church Times about this issue, and started thinking about how it might be possible, especially using creative tools, to bring interfaith dimensions into the contemplative season of Lent.
As an academic who focuses on religion and the arts, I naturally began to think of the Stations as a chance to visualize and stimulate interfaith and intercultural dialogue.My ideas about how to do a Stations of the Cross exhibition varied at first. Inspired by the layout of the original Stations in Jerusalem, I gradually settled on the idea of placing fourteen stations around London. The idea immediately clicked with associations of London as a sort of new Jerusalem, something which had become a sub-theme in a book I was editing with Prof. Ben Quash and Dr. Chloe Reddaway.
All of these ideas were percolating, but still in rough form, when I received an email from the artist Terry Duffy. Terry shared with me an exciting project he already had underway, in which he was touring his towering painting, ‘Victim, no resurrection?’ (1981) across the world. It was exciting to hear about the different reactions the work had received in places ranging from Cape Town to Dresden, and how the imagery of the Crucifixion had served as a successful tool for focusing discussions about social justice in the communities that exhibited the work. As the refugee crisis deepened and spread from the Middle East to Europe, Terry and I began to see the potential to use art—including his existing Crucifixion—as a way to contribute to discussions about what it means to experience the shattering trauma of displacement.
It was clear that Terry and I had shared interests—he as an artist and me as a scholar—and that together we could draw on our areas of expertise to conjure a compelling exhibition. I believed it might take another a year or more to organize but Terry, in his indomitable way, insisted it was possible to put this exhibition together within six months. It meant a crazy amount of work, but he was right! There has been something feverish but exciting about staging an exhibition in what, by art world standards, constitutes light speed.
Of course none of this would have come together without fantastic artists who shared this creative drive. I was immediately encouraged speaking to Michael Takeo Magruder and G. Roland Biermann. I had worked with Michael and Roland before on an exhibition at the Jewish Museum in London, and I knew they both had very sophisticated and nuanced approaches to religion. They made it clear that the Stations represented an almost inexhaustible trove of inspiration for the right group of contemporary artists, and in the ensuing months we approached many others. Amazingly, everyone we approached said yes! This could be testimony to Terry and my amazing powers of research and investigation, but I think it’s more likely a sign of these artists’ talent, energy, and generosity of spirit.
As we had discussions with artists, we also began investigating sites. The problem was how to make a trail through London that was entirely within walking distance, followed a logical and compelling route, and touched important works and sites coinciding with the correct station. We began to draw up a list of possible sites and started to try out each one, often by walking around London together.
The more sites we examined the more we realized how important it was not just to incorporate new works of art responding to the Stations, but to find ways of activating new meanings in existing works.
To tell the Stations of the Cross as a London story didn’t just involve placing that story onto the city’s landscape, but finding ways in which that story was already being told in existing locations. We began to catch glimpses of the suffering Christ all around London—from paintings in the National Gallery to Cathedral altarpieces and public statues. We felt our job was to connect these images with works by the artists we were meeting.
One of my great hopes for this exhibition is that visitors experience the same sense of delightful discovery that we had as we looked for the perfect place to situate each of the stations. London is a wonderfully illogical place, with far more nooks and crannies than most modern capitals. It’s a city perfectly suited to eccentric wanderings. I hope this exhibition proves a new way to discover and experience London. Along the way, I hope that visitors also allow their minds to wander, making connections that we as curators may never have imagined.
Top image: Station Eight: John Cocteau, 'Our Lady's Chapel', 1959
The 'Story Tent' uses a form of inter-faith dialogue called Scriptural Reasoning as its basis. Scriptural Reasoning works by engaging participants with the texts at the heart of each faith tradition, allowing them to share and explore thoughts and ideas together. Discover more about Scriptural Reasoning here.
At the start of Tuesday 12th April, a Church of England village school in Warwickshire was full of excited pupils, teachers and faith representatives, ready to put up the Story Tent and start sharing stories.
The aim of the day was to discover and explore stories from different sacred texts; to ask questions and develop a deeper understanding of people from different faith traditions and to build friendships that break down misconceptions and prejudice. Tracey, the religious education teacher at the school was particularly keen to inspire and encourage the children to realise that faith is not just a theoretical idea. It is a reality for people across the world - a reality with which they can all connect. On this occasion the whole of Key Stage Two entered the Story Tent, involving more than one hundred pupils and four class teachers, working together with nine faith representatives from the Christian, Muslim and Sikh traditions.
The “Story Tent” RE themed day
The day started off with an assembly in the hall. The children found out about important attitudes needed to explore different faiths and beliefs; the attitudes of respect, openness and curiosity – “attitudes that ROC.” The team of faith representatives were then able to introduce themselves and their sacred texts, giving a brief introduction to the Bible, the Qur’an and the Guru Granth Sahib.
Each class then returned to their classrooms and, with the help of the team, were able to ask questions and discover as much as they could about the story allocated to each class. Years Six and Four looked at the story of how the world began, Year Five studied the story of Noah and Year Three considered parables. At the end of the morning the children used drama to present what they had discovered to the rest of their class in the safe space of the Story Tent – the place of meeting. This part of the experience was really helpful in embedding the learning. One pupil put it well when she said:
“I enjoyed doing the play because using the text was quite hard, especially the Sikh one. So I read it, I asked lots of questions and then doing it made it a hundred times easier to understand.” (Pupil)
Through drama, games, quizzes and art work the children explored similarities and differences between stories of different faith traditions and came to a deeper understanding of the reality of what it means to be a person of faith.
At the end of the day there was a whole school gathering in the hall. Each class was able to share what they had learnt and ask the faith representatives any remaining unanswered questions. The day ended on a high note with everyone keen to find out more and take the work further.
Thoughts and Reflections
The pupils and adults were given the opportunity to reflect on what they wanted to take away from the event. What things had they learnt? What things could be improved upon? Had the day changed them in any way? Interestingly, and to my surprise, I found that the adults and pupils were saying similar things.
The first aim of Scriptural Reasoning is not consensus: the emphasis is rather on understanding another perspective. I felt encouraged by the following responses:
“Because I’m a Christian, I felt quite excited because I was going to find out about someone else’s perspectives and what people believed in a different religion.” (Pupil)
“Through learning more about Muslims and getting in contact with a real person it has made me reflect on how I look at them. Trying to understand them requires going into a deeper dialogue and challenging our preconceptions, and that’s what’s happened to me.” (Faith Representative)
The second principle behind Scriptural Reasoning is that in understanding another you understand yourself more fully. I felt encouraged by the following responses:
“The last time you came I looked at Christianity and looked deeper into my own faith. This time I worked on the Sikh story and I could understand what they were thinking and how strong it is in them and it helps me to understand how strong I can be in my faith.” (Pupil)
“In terms of my personal growth, I have re-discovered unique and complex aspects of my faith, and I have been inspired to grapple with these issues once again.” (Faith Representative)
Thirdly, quality time spent talking with people from other faith backgrounds breaks down misunderstanding and prejudice and deepens friendships.
“I am very excited at the prospect of welcoming into school more representatives of different faiths, but personally would like to continue to keep in contact with the different people of faith that I met.” (Adult)
“The way she spoke engaged you. You couldn’t stop looking and learning more. I want to remember everything because it has all been a new learning experience.” (Pupil)
At the end of the day there was a real desire to develop and to build on the success of the project. I believe that children in primary schools are able to use Scriptural Reasoning principles to discover and understand faith from different perspectives and to cope with the concepts presented. What is more, I believe it is not only the children who are growing and developing through the experience but the adults as well. I will end with a quote which I believe summarises the success of the day:
“The opportunity to talk in a relaxed way and share this storytelling experience with someone of another faith was liberating. This exercise offered a safe and constructive way of exploring different faith positions that does not often arise in the course of everyday life.” (Faith Representative)
The Story Tent is part of an ongoing research project based at Warwick University in the Warwick Religious Education Research Unit. For more information contact Anne Moseley at A.Moseley@warwick.ac.uk.
Find out the story behind the headlines and learn how we can respond.
DR. GEORGETTE F. BENNETT
Founder & President, Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding Founder, Multifaith Alliance for Syrian Refugees
Dr. Georgette Bennett, President of the Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding, is a sociologist by training who has spent the past 22 years advancing interreligious relations. She founded Tanenbaum in 1992 to combat religious prejudice and the Multifaith Alliance in 2013, to mobilize support for alleviating the suffering of Syria's war victims. Among many other honors, Dr. Bennett has been recognized by the Syrian American Medical Society for her work on behalf of Syrian refugees.
An active philanthropist, Dr. Bennett focuses her personal charitable activities on conflict resolution and intergroup relations. She serves on the boards of Third Way Institute; and the Jewish Funders Network, where she is currently the Vice Chair, was formerly the Chair of the Membership Committee, and co-chaired the 2015 Annual Conference. Additionally, she is an Overseer of the International Rescue Committee. In the U.K. she serves on the Advisory Board of the Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East.
MR SHADI MARTINI
As it has with so many other victims of this crisis, the Syrian war turned businessman Shadi Martini into a refugee, an activist, and an advocate for greater cooperation across faith and cultural lines. Now, as the Senior Syria Advisor to the Multifaith Alliance for Syrian Refugees, Mr. Martini travels throughout the U.S. and abroad to raise awareness of the crisis, encourage greater public engagement, facilitate partnerships between organizations focused on addressing similar issues, and plant the seeds for future stability in the region by fostering people-to-people engagement. He frequently presents to government officials, civil society leaders, the media, and various secular, faith, and interfaith gatherings.
He was born and raised in Aleppo, Syria and graduated from the High School Aleppo Scientific College. Martini attended college in Lebanon where he received his BA from Beirut University College in 1993. After graduation, Martini went to Bulgaria and formed his own manufacturing company. In 2009 he returned to Syria to run his family’s business.
In March 2011, when the Assad regime cracked down on those providing aid to anyone suspected of being in the opposition, Mr. Martini, then the General Manager of a hospital in Aleppo, and his comrades worked covertly to provide aid to wounded and ill civilians. This secret network was eventually discovered in mid-2012, forcing him to flee his country.
In 2014, Martini founded Refugee Support Group, a humanitarian aid organization based in Bulgaria. For the past several years he has partnered with various faith-based organizations in the U.S. and abroad, which led to his involvement with the Multifaith Alliance. In that capacity, he continues his work in the Middle East and also coordinates major relief efforts for Syrian refugees flooding into Europe.
Martini is fluent in Arabic, English and Bulgarian. In April, he became a United States citizen.
One of the longest-established interfaith organisations, the World Congress of Faiths (WCF), turns 80 this year and is celebrating with a programme designed to extend its reach and complement the work of other interfaith bodies.
The Congress is a Fellowship that has its roots in the World’s Parliament of Religions, first held in Chicago in 1893, and the Religions of Empire Conference, held in London in 1924. Inspired by these movements and his own spiritual experiences, explorer Sir Francis Younghusband organised two international conferences in London, and after the second of these, in 1936 and the shadow of a looming World War, WCF became established as an independent body.
Nowadays there are many more interfaith organisations, ranging from the small and local to the international; some located in academe and running major research programmes while others may be based in large cities or small towns. The focus can be on delivering social action, on working with secular society, or on facilitating personal dialogue.
Individuals and groups from different faith or belief traditions have developed a rich variety of relational modes, including discussion groups, scriptural reasoning, joint social action and advocacy. However, none are mutually exclusive and all are underpinned by a desire for trust rather than suspicion, and creating understanding in place of ignorance.
In planning for its anniversary celebration, the World Congress of Faiths decided to review its work and consider its own role, questioning whether its long history put it in a unique position to offer a particular mode of relationship-building. As an organisation for individuals, it welcomes people from all faiths and beliefs who have a desire for constructive interaction and a mind open to other ways of thinking, living and growing spiritually.
No-one is asked to represent their tradition, nor act on its behalf, only to reflect, share and learn through informal meeting and more formal events.
WCF also publishes an international journal, Interreligious Insight, which is to be found in many educational establishments.
Members and friends of WCF were in agreement that its unique role in a pluralist society is to bring people together to contemplate, discuss and promote the importance of recognising spiritual life, individual and collective, in the modern world. Where religious divisions are assumed by secular society to exist and to be a major problem, WCF can act as one of the advocates and exemplars for people from different traditions fostering better understanding between themselves and within secular society; primarily by sharing the various ways in which they relate to the spiritual journey that humanity must make, whether together or alone.
Consideration and contemplation of the roots of interfaith practice throws light on the nature and potential of that understanding. With this in mind, WCF is holding a conference, Religious Pluralism and Interfaith Dialogue: Learning for the Future on 23 September at Emmanuel College Cambridge. Speakers will look at aspects of interfaith theology and practice and its influence on wider society; delegates will be able to take part in discussion about their own experience and study, pooling knowledge that can be used to produce ideas and resources for everyone – but in particular for the generation that will be the next champions of the vital need for all people of faith and belief to work in harmony.
If you want to be part of that discussion, you can find more information and register to come to the day at www.worldfaiths.org/conference-2016 and look out for a report on the same website after the event.
On Friday 23 September at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, CIP Director Dr Ankur Barua will speak at a conference exploring the theological and philosophical developments in the landscape of religion and belief in the UK, with an emphasis on future aims and practices in inter-faith dialogue.
Organised by the World Congress of Faiths, the conference will be chaired by Dr David Cheetham of the School of Philosophy, Theology, and Religion, University of Birmingham. It will also feature talks from Rabbi Dr Tony Bayfield, Professor Ursula King, Revd Dr Alan Race, and Professor Chris Baker.
There will be an optional conference dinner addressed by Dr Amineh Hoti, international inter-faith activist and peace builder and Executive Director of the Centre for Dialogue and Action.
For more information and to register, please visit the WCF's conference page.
To discover more, read Jenny Kartupelis' blog article on the past and future of inter-faith dialogue.
*Photo by DAVID ILIFF. License: CC-BY-SA 3.0