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RESEARCH: CIP Seminar - Dr Elizabeth Fowden

last modified Oct 30, 2019 11:34 AM
Research Seminar in Inter-Religious Relations - Dr Elizabeth Fowden 'From Deucalion's Flood to Abrahamic Rain-Prayers: Approaches to Sacred Space in Athens Friday, 8 November 2019 1.30-3.30pm in the Lightfoot Room
RESEARCH: CIP Seminar - Dr Elizabeth Fowden

Le Temple de Jupiter Olympien et l'Acropolis d'Athenes showing the open air mosque in 1819, Louis Dupre 1825. Credit: American School of Classical Studies at Athens, Gennadius Library

Dr Fowden uses the complex pagan, Christian, Muslim and contemporary history of the Olympieion precinct to examine ideological conflicts and contradictory genealogies that co-exist in what the Cambridge urban historian Wendy Pullan calls a 'transitional topography'.

The respondent is Dr Maximilian Sternberg, Department of Architecture.

All colleagues, undergraduate, MPhil and PhD students in the Divinity Faculty or other areas (such as Classics, History, Modern and Medieval Languages, English, Philosophy and FAMES) are warmly welcome to attend this seminar.

Tea will be served at 3.30pm in the Selwyn Room.

RESEARCH: CIP Seminar - Marietta van der Tol

last modified Oct 30, 2019 11:22 AM
Research Seminar in Inter-Religious Relations - Marietta van der Tol 'The Christian Nation in Protestant Thought: Old Wine in New Bottles?' Friday, 25 October 2019 12.30-2pm in the Lightfoot Room
RESEARCH: CIP Seminar - Marietta van der Tol

Ambrogio Lorenzetti 'Allegory of the Good Government' (detail)

This seminar will discuss the kinship between the corpus Christianum and the Christian nation state, compare critical reflections to either from withing continental traditions of Protestant political thought, and reflect on its implications for responses to right-wing populism today.

The respondent is Dr Muthuraj Swamy (Director, Cambridge Centre for Christianity Worldwide, Westminster College).

All colleagues, undergraduate, MPhil and PhD students in the Divinity Faculty or other areas (such as Classics, History, Modern & Medieval Languages, English, Philosophy and FAMES) are warmly welcome to attend this seminar.

NEWS: 'Scripture & Violence' Nominated for Research Impact Award

last modified Oct 30, 2019 10:07 AM
Dr Daniel Weiss & Dr Julia Snyder's research project challenging assumptions about religious texts and acts of violence is recognised at Vice-Chancellor's Research & Impact Engagement Awards 2019
NEWS: 'Scripture & Violence' Nominated for Research Impact Award

Dr Giles Waller, Dr Daniel Weiss & Dr Julia Snyder

Representatives of CIP attended an awards ceremony recognising excellence in research, impact and engagement, hosted by the University of Cambridge's Vice Chancellor. 

'Scripture & Violence' is a two-year collaborative research project focusing on challenging prevalent contemporary assumptions about the relationship between scriptural texts and real-world violence, in relation to Jewish, Christian, and Islamic traditions. Questioning whether, for example, the Qur’an actually does play a major role in inspiring Muslim terrorism. Following two international conferences, 'Scripture & Violence' will culminate in an edited volume with Routledge (to be published in 2020), that is intended to be both academically rigorous and accessible to a non-academic readership.

The project was planned from the start with collaboration in mind – both in terms of the research itself and in relation to impact.  The two main academic collaborators (Dr Daniel Weiss and Dr Julia Snyder) came to the project from different countries, different academic fields, different institutions, and different religious backgrounds.  Other researchers who took part in the project came from Pakistan, Israel, and the US - all nations where religion plays a greater role in public discourse.  

As well as academic researchers, the conferences were attended by representatives of non-academic stakeholder organisations - such as Saleem Seedat (imam at Blackburn College and a member of the Scotland Yard Counter-Terrorism Advisory Board), and Nadiya Takolia (who coordinates public interfaith dialogue sessions involving scriptural texts for the Rose Castle Foundation).   

Partner organisations (Rose Castle Foundation, Coexist House and Faith in Leadership) developed workshops for UK faith leaders and other interested individuals, using the research as a platform for discussing how participants could facilitate discussion of these issues in their own local contexts.  These sessions fed back into the final versions of the research essays in the edited volume, tailoring the writing to appeal to as wide an audience as possible.

The research was also the theme for well-attended and highly praised public events at the LSE Faith Centre and Greenbelt Festival.

 

 

 

 

RESEARCH: CIP Seminar - Dr Ankur Barua

last modified Oct 30, 2019 10:18 AM
A seminar entitled ‘Hindu Visions of Divinity: Doctrinal Vignettes for Christians – Prolegomena to a Monograph’ – Dr Ankur Barua (Lecturer in Hindu Studies, Faculty of Divinity) on 11 October 2019

Friday, 11 October 2019: 1.30 – 3.30pm in the Lightfoot Room, Faculty of Divinity 

‘Hindu Visions of Divinity: Doctrinal Vignettes for Christians – Prolegomena to a Monograph – Dr Ankur Barua (Lecturer in Hindu Studies, Faculty of Divinity) 

Respondent – Dr Ruth Jackson (Sidney Sussex College)

Dr Barua will present 'work-in-progress' for a book he is writing.  He is seeking to systematically explore the validity of some specific translations of Indic terms into English which are offered in lectures to undergraduate students – can brahman, karuṇā, prasāda, and prema be translated as ‘God’, ‘mercy’, ‘grace’, and ‘love’, and if these translations are to be rejected because of their distinctively Christian inflections, examine how might we speak in English at all about Hindu life-worlds?

Second, he will offer the following invitation to those who might be doctrinally more orthodox: "If you wish to draw on your current understanding of Christian theology as a cognitive-experiential bridgehead into Hindu styles of spirituality, you could read these introductory vignettes."

Written from the perspective of a friendly critic, Dr Barua's book is an invitation to Christian theologians to articulate fully incarnationalist visions in which the motif of deep religious diversity is not relegated to parenthetical remarks or passing footnotes or stray appendices but is instituted as a topic that is as vitally integral to doctrinal reflection as the standard loci of creation, atonement and redemption.

 All colleagues, MPhil and PhD students in the Divinity Faculty or other areas (such as Classics, History, Modern and Medieval Languages, English, Philosophy, and FAMES) are warmly welcome to attend this seminar.

 

PUBLIC EVENT: CIP's Festival of Ideas Events 2019

last modified Oct 30, 2019 10:08 AM
Two talks hosted by CIP for the Festival of Ideas 2019 on the theme of 'change'
PUBLIC EVENT: CIP's Festival of Ideas Events 2019

Manual Capellari

CHANGING HEARTS & MINDS - 16 OCTOBER 2019, 7.30-9PM

A talk about the range of ways in which conversion has been experienced & narrated in different religious cultures. 

What does it mean to turn oneself - or be turned to - God? How, historically, have individuals imagined, experienced and narrated their own conversion and that of others? Do they conceive of religious conversion as a single moment or a lengthy – even lifelong – process? How have religious communities ratified or sealed conversions? 

These questions will form the focus for discussion between Sophie Lunn-RockliffeGiles Waller and Daniel Weiss from the Faculty of Divinity, considering the range of ways in which conversion has been narrated in early Christianity, rabbinic Judaism, and the Protestant Reformation.

Places are limited and registration is essential - book your free ticket here


THE END OF THE WORLD AS WE KNOW IT? - 22 OCTOBER 2019, 7.30-9PM 
A talk about how thinkers from antiquity to today have examined the notion of 'the end of the world'.

 

From the flood in the Hebrew Bible to our current climate crisis, the end of the world has repeatedly been nigh.

Hjördis Becker-Lindenthal, Simone Kotva and Sophie Lunn-Rockliffe from the Faculty of Divinity will discuss how different thinkers from antiquity to today have conceptualised the notion of 'the end of the world' in theological terms - from the idea that planetary death is a punishment sent from God for human sins or a self-wrought disaster brought on by heedless consumption. Is the way the current climate debate is being framed anything new? How do we know that the order of change in the natural world is now critical?

Places are limited and registration is essential - book your free ticket here

 

 

PUBLIC EVENT: Scriptural Reasoning at Greenbelt 2019, 26 Aug 2019

last modified Oct 30, 2019 10:09 AM
'Scripture & Violence - Challenging Assumptions': Scriptural Reasoning at Greenbelt Festival 2019 on 26 August at 11am
PUBLIC EVENT: Scriptural Reasoning at Greenbelt 2019, 26 Aug 2019

Scriptural Reasoning

If you are going to Greenbelt Festival this coming Bank Holiday weekend, join us for a 90 minute scriptural reasoning session to explore passages in the Jewish, Christian and Muslim sacred texts that seem to incite violence. 

Greenbelt 2019 is one of the world's largest Christian arts and activism festivals, and we are partnering with Rose Castle Foundation and Coexist House to run this event, with support from the University of Cambridge's Arts & Humanities Impact Fund.

More information is available here.

 

 

NEWS: Church Times coverage of CIP event

last modified Oct 30, 2019 10:09 AM
'Neither inherently violent nor safe' by Michael Wakelin in Church Times, 19 July 2019

Having attended a public event organised by Cambridge Inter-Faith Programme at the London School of Economic’s Faith Centre, Michael Wakelin, former Head of Religion & Ethics at the BBC asked to what extent do scriptural texts inspire terrorist acts in an article in Church Times (dated 19 July 2019). 

As a follow-up to this event, Cambridge Inter-Faith Programme will also be co-hosting (with Rose Castle Foundation) a scriptural reasoning event on the same theme at Greenbelt Festival on 26 August 2019.

 

 

RESEARCH: Mosaic Law Among the Moderns Workshop, 22 July 2019

last modified Oct 30, 2019 10:12 AM
CIP Conference Competition Winner Dr Paul Michael Kurtz organises event for international scholars - 'Mosaic Law Among the Moderns: Constructions of Biblical Law in 19th Century Germany'
RESEARCH: Mosaic Law Among the Moderns Workshop, 22 July 2019

'Marx the Modern Moses' by D. Bernstein c.1905

Through the figure of Moses, this event uncovered the place of biblical law in modern Germany. International and interdisciplinary scholars examined how ancient religious law impacted on discourse about modern legal structures during the consolidation of German states in the 19th century, tracing the transformations of Mosaic law in cultural, intellectual and religious history.

A keynote lecture by Prof Suzanne Marchand framed discussions which took place over three days (22-24 July 2019) in St John’s College between a group of 20 scholars, who looked at questions such as:

  • Did Moses plagiarize from Hammurabi?
  • Does biblical law have any place in a secular state?
  • Are modern Jews bound by ancient law?
  • How radical are the politics of Moses?

Speakers and discussants enjoyed thought-provoking papers and lively conversation, enriched by the group's diversity in career stage – covering professors, postdocs, and PhD students – and in discipline, which ranged from history and classics to religious, German, and Jewish studies. Attendees came from Germany and France, Italy and Israel, the UK and US, the Netherlands and Belgium.

Participants are now planning to publish their research, with some expansion into other fields to help round out the volume. 

Convened by Dr Paul Michael Kurtz, formerly Marie Curie Fellow at the Faculty of Divinity and Post Doctoral Research Associate at Queens' College, with funding from the Cambridge Inter-Faith Programme Conference Competition and DAAD-Cambridge Research Hub, and the European Union's Horizon 2020 programme.

Dr Kurtz is now a Postdoctoral Fellow of the Research Foundation–Flanders, based at Ghent University.

Programme

Day One, 22 July

17.00 -18.00 Session 1: Introduction - Paul Kurtz (Cambridge) & Keynote

Suzanne Marchand (Baton Rouge), 'Greek Freedom and Mosaic Law in 19th-Century Germany'

Day Two, 23 July

9.30–11.00 Session 2: Bible

Ofri Ilany (Jerusalem), 'The Israelites' Nationalgeist: Ethnography and Politics in Johann David Michaelis's Interpretation of Mosaic Law'
Felix Weidemann (Berlin), 'Moses or Hammurabi? The question to the origin of law in German ancient Near Eastern studies at the turn of the 20th century'
Chair: Dan Pioske (Savannah)

11.30–13.00 Session 3: Judaism

Irene Zwiep (Amsterdam), 'Post-constitutionalism? Conceptualizations of law in the nineteenth-century Wissenschaft des Judentums'
Judith Frishman (Leiden), TBC
Chair: TBC


14.30–16.00 Session 4: Comparisons

Cristiana Facchini (Bologna), 'Monitoring German Scholarship on the Bible: Jesuit & Catholic counter-narratives (1850s-1900s)'
Annelies Lannoy (Ghent), 'The Law and the Republic. Maurice Vernes and Aristide Astruc on the history of Mosaic Law and its instruction in the ecole laique'
Chair: TBC

Day Three, 24 July

11.00–12.30 Session 5: Politics

Nico Camilleri (Padua), 'Which law for the colonial empire? Rule of law and (Christian) religion in German colonialism'
Carolin Kosuch (Göttingen), 'Moses and the Left: Traces of the Torah in Modern Jewish Political Thought'
Chair: Emiliano Urciuoli (Erfurt)

12.30–13.00 Session 6: Concluding Remarks

Paul Kurtz (Cambridge)

 

RESEARCH: Scripture & The Enemy SRU Conference 2019

last modified Oct 30, 2019 10:15 AM
Scripture & The Enemy: Scriptural Reasoning in the University Conference 2019, 1-3 July 2019, Faculty of Divinity
RESEARCH: Scripture & The Enemy SRU Conference 2019

Artist Unknown 'Christian & Muslim Playing Chess'

This three-day international conference will explore how emnity and/or enemies are treated in the textual traditions of Judaism, Islam and Christianity.

Academics and researchers will present papers that examine the ways in which engaging with pre-modern texts and traditions can illuminate and challenge contemporary assumptions about emnity/enemies.

Guiding questions include:

  • Do these texts and traditions call for wholesale elimination of enmity, or is an ongoing functional role attributed to it?
  • Do these texts and traditions depict or call for cultivation of ‘good enemies’ without demonisation, polarisation or essentialising?
  • Are the most salient enemies always recognisably ‘other’ (that is, affiliated with a ‘different’ cultural group or religious tradition)?
  • What do these texts and traditions say about ‘enemies’ that are not persons? 

The programme (subject to change):

Monday, 1 July 2019

2.00–3.00: Arrival, Tea/Coffee

3.00–3.30: Welcome and Introductions

(Julia Snyder and Daniel Weiss)

3.30–4.30: Text Study 1 (small groups)

4.30–5.30: Discussion Session 1

Daniel Weiss (UK), Thou shalt have no enemies before me: Hatred, Vengeance, Third Party Evaluation, and the Suspension of Judgment in the Hebrew Bible

Hannah Hashkes (Israel), A Friendly Look at the Notion of EIVA (Animosity) in Rabbinic Law

Tuesday, 2 July 2019

9.00–10.30: Text Study 2 (small groups)

10.30–11.00: Tea/Coffee

11.00–12.30: Discussion Session 2

Faiza Masood (UK), The Role of Satan in Human Relations: A Quranic Examination

Kumar Aniket (UK), Role of External and Internal Enmity in Group Formation

Laurie Zoloth (USA), Bad Guy: Sin and Doubt in Climactic Change

12.30–2.00: Lunch (provided)

2.00–3.30: Text Study 3 (small groups)

3.30–4.00: Tea/Coffee

4.00–5.30: Discussion Session 3

David Barr (Canada), Figuring the Enemy: Christian Interpretations of the Muslim Threat in the Sixteenth Century

Nauman Faizi (Pakistan), Friendship at any cost? Sir Syed contra Mehdi Ali

Julia Snyder (Germany), Scripture and Violence

Wednesday, 3 July 2019

9.00–10.30: Text Study 4 (small groups)

10.30–11.00: Tea/Coffee

11.00–12.30: Discussion Session 4

Jim Fodor (USA), ‘Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you’: What Kind of Moral Psychology?

Jason Fout (USA), Being Loved as an Enemy

Miriam Feldmann Kaye (Israel), ‘Scriptural Reasoning’ in Jerusalem: Theological Discord and Discourses of Diagnosis in Hospitals

12.30–2.00: Lunch (provided)

2.00–3.30: Discussion Session 5

Mark James (USA), Blessed are the Scriptural Peacemakers: Origen, Wisdom, and the Harmonization of Scripture

Peter Kang (USA), Memory, Enmity and Clement of Alexandria’s ‘Unmindfulness of Injury’ 

Hanoch Ben-Pazi (Israel), ‘From Foe to Friend’ (S.Y. Agnon): Models of Brotherliness in the Hebrew Bible. Love and Hatred, Foe and Friend

 

PUBLIC EVENT: Scripture & Violence: Common Assumptions, Impact & Response - 27 June

last modified Oct 30, 2019 10:21 AM
Scripture and Violence: Common Assumptions, Impact and Response - Scriptural Reasoning & Panel Discussion at LSE Faith Centre on 27 June 2019, 7.30 -9.15pm
PUBLIC EVENT: Scripture & Violence: Common Assumptions, Impact & Response - 27 June

Sacred Desert window by Christopher Le Brun at LSE Faith Centre

Scriptural Reasoning & Panel Discussion

 

This event, organised by the Cambridge Inter-Faith Programme at the University of Cambridge's Faculty of Divinity, in partnership with Coexist House, will use scriptural reasoning to examine:

  • The role scriptures play in motivating or justifying violence. 
  • How do the texts of the Hebrew Bible and New Testament relate to violence committed by Jews and Christians?
  • Is there anything in the Qur'an that makes Muslims likely to perform acts of violence?
  • How should one respond when someone expresses concerns about these texts?

It will include presentations of research from the Cambridge Inter-Faith Programme's project on 'Scripture and Violence' and participatory discussion of scriptural texts (scriptural reasoning).

Panelists will include Dr Julia Snyder (Regensburg), Dr Nauman Faizi (Lahore),  Dr Daniel Weiss (Cambridge), and Prof David Ford (Cambridge).

Discussion will draw on a recent case where an asylum seeker asserted that he had converted to Christianity after discovering that it was a 'peaceful' religion, and was rejected for asylum by the Home Office on the grounds that the Bible contains violence. This case illustrates the practical impact that common assumptions about scripture and violence have in contemporary society. More information about this case can be found on the following links:

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/home-office-christian-convert-asylum-refused-bible-not-peaceful-a8832026.html 

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/21/world/europe/britain-asylum-seeker-christianity.html) 

Places are limited, so please book now to avoid disappointment via

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/scripture-and-violence-common-assumptions-impact-and-response-tickets-62973022004

Sandwiches and light refreshments will be provided.

 

RESEARCH: CIP Seminar - Prof John Barclay

last modified Oct 30, 2019 10:20 AM
Prof John Barclay (University of Durham) 'The Support of the Poor in early Judaism and early Christianity: A Comparison' Friday, 31 May 2019, Lightfoot Room, 2-4pm
RESEARCH: CIP Seminar - Prof John Barclay

Seminar poster

Professor John Barclay (University of Durham and CIP Visiting Fellow) will give a talk on 'The Support of the Poor in early Judaism and early Christianity: A Comparison'. Professor William Horbury will be the respondent.

Early Christianity inherited much from its Jewish matrix in concern for the poor, in ethos and theological rationale - but their social networks were different, and differently constituted. Prof Barclay's talk will enquire if this caused differences in the organisation, reach and rationale for their respective support systems for and among the poor. One emergent theme will be the significance of 'weak links'; another, the Christological reconfiguration of Jewish theology. 

Students and colleagues from all disciplines are warmly invited to attend - if you need further information, do contact Dr Giles Waller.  Lunch will be served beforehand.

RESEARCH: CIP Seminar - Prof Robert B Gibbs

last modified Oct 30, 2019 10:21 AM
Research Seminar in Inter-Religious Relations, Professor Robert B. Gibbs (University of Toronto), 'Commentary at the crossroads of the disciplines' Thursday 23 May 2019, Lightfoot Room, 12:00-13:30
RESEARCH: CIP Seminar - Prof Robert B Gibbs

Glossa Ordinaria - image courtesy University of Toronto

Professor Robert B. Gibbs (University of Toronto & CIP Visiting Fellow) will give a talk on 'Commentary at the crossroads of the disciplines'. The respondent is Prof John Barclay (University of Durham & CIP Visiting Fellow).  

Students and colleagues are welcome to attend - if you need further information, do contact Dr Giles Waller.  Lunch will follow the seminar.

 

RESEARCH: CIP Seminar - Professor Paul Shore

last modified Oct 30, 2019 10:44 AM
Research Seminar in Inter-Religious Relations, Professor Paul Shore (University of Regina and Visiting Fellow, Cambridge Inter-faith Programme), ‘The Jesuit Translation of the Qur'an in the Seventeenth Century’, Thursday 4 Oct 2018 12:00-13:30

A seminar presented by Professor Paul Shore, University of Regina and Visiting Fellow, Cambridge Inter-Faith Programme. The paper is titled 'The Spirit of the letter: The Politics of a 1622 Qur'an Translation in the Christian West', and a response will be given by Dr Justin Meggit. It will take place on Thursday 4 October, 12:00 – 13:30  in the Lightfoot Room, Faculty of Divinity. 

The session will be followed by informal refreshments in the Selwyn Room (Divinity).

All welcome. Please email team@interfaith.cam.ac.uk if you would like to attend.

Overview

My paper will have four parts.  First, I'll say a little bit on the early history of Latin translations of the Qur'an in the Christian West.  Then I'll explain the background pf the translation that will be the focus of my work at Cambridge: that of Ignazio Lomellini, a Genoan Jesuit who died in 1645.  I'll talk next about the tension between the desire to produce an accurate translation of the Arabic and the requirement Lomellini faced, given when and where he worked, to prove that Islam and its sacred text are "false," heretical," etc. To conclude I'll say a few words about the two Suras from the Qur'an I have chosen to concentrate on Srua 18 and 53, and what I hope to accomplish during my Fellowship in Cambridge

 

PUBLIC EVENT: Borders of Violence and Visions of Peace

last modified Oct 30, 2019 10:37 AM
Presented by Coexist House and the Cambridge Inter-faith Programme, the second of thee panels on themes of South Asian Interfaith Relations at St Ethelburga's Centre for Reconciliation and Peace

“Borders of Violence and Visions of Peace: The Religious Landscapes of South Asia”

St Ethelburga's Centre of Reconciliation and Peace, London

Thursday 7 June, 6.30pm

Join us for the second in a series of conversations exploring interfaith understandings and relations inspired by South Asia, hosted by Coexist House and the Cambridge Inter-faith Proframme. In this panel talk, speakers will reflect on the complex tapestries of religious belief and practice across various South Asian landscapes which have generated distinctive of peace and conflagrations of interreligious violence. This will be followed by a Q&A.

Chair: Timothy Winter (University of Cambridge)

Speakers:

Humeira Iqtidar (King's College London)
Reid Locklin (University of Toronto)
Kusum Gopal (UN Technical Expert)

If you have any questions or want to know any more about the event, please contact us at team@interfaith.cam.ac.uk

Entry is free and light refreshments will be served.

Please register for the event here:
https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/borders-of-violence-and-visions-of-peace-the-religious-landscapes-of-south-asia-tickets-46364657940

RESEARCH: CIP Seminar - Dr Susannah Ticciati and Dr Daniel H. Weiss

last modified Oct 30, 2019 10:38 AM
Research Seminar in Inter-Religious Relations, Dr Susannah Ticciati (King’s College London) and Daniel H. Weiss (University of Cambridge) ‘Negotiating Conflicting Religious Truth Claims: Rabbinic and Christian Accounts in Dialogue’, Thursday 24 May 14:00-16:00, Lightfoot Room, Faculty of Divinity

Dr Susannah Ticciati (Reader in Christian Theology, King’s College London)

Dr Daniel H. Weiss (Polonsky-Coexist Senior Lecturer in Jewish Studies, Faculty of Divinity)

Negotiating Conflicting Religious Truth Claims : Rabbinic and Christian Accounts in Dialogue

Thursday 24 May 14:00-16:00

Lightfoot Room, Faculty of Divinity

All welcome. Please email team@interfaith.cam.ac.uk if you would like to attend so that we can track attendance

Abstract

This session will use philosophical and textual approaches to explore the question of asserting religious claims, whether to others or to oneself, in the context of the traditions of Christianity and of rabbinic Judaism.  Is there a basis for making 'universal' claims that apply not only to one's own community but also to those currently outside that community? Are there distinctive dynamics within both Christian and rabbinic traditions that expect core religious claims to be viewed as implausible by outsiders?  The session will be structured as a dialogue between the two presenters, and will engage the potential epistemological implications of texts such as the discussion of 'foolishness' and 'stumbling block' in 1 Corinthians 1:18-25, the suffering servant passages from Isaiah, and classical rabbinic presentations of conversion and the 'invisible' status of Israel's election.

 

Susannah Ticciati

Susannah Ticciati is Reader in Christian Theology at King’s College London. She read maths and theology for her BA at Peterhouse, Cambridge, where she went on to do her PhD in theology, after which she held a research fellowship at Selwyn College, Cambridge. Her research is in constructive Christian doctrinal theology, with foci in apophatic theology and scriptural hermeneutics. She is the author of Job and the Disruption of Identity: Reading Beyond Barth, and of A New Apophaticism: Augustine and the Redemption of Signs.

 

Daniel Weiss

Daniel H. Weiss is Polonsky-Coexist Senior Lecturer in Jewish Studies in the Faculty of Divinity at the University of Cambridge. He is the author of Paradox and the Prophets: Hermann Cohen and the Indirect Communication (OUP, 2012) and co-editor of Purity and Danger Now: New Perspectives (Routledge, 2016).   He is actively involved in the Cambridge Interfaith Programme and in Scriptural Reasoning.

PUBLIC EVENT: The Promise of Intimacy - Searching for the Divine in Modern Times

last modified Oct 30, 2019 11:12 AM
Presented by Coexist House and the Cambridge Inter-faith Programme, the first of thee panels on themes of South Asian Interfaith Relations at St Ethelburga's Centre for Reconciliation and Peace: 'The Promise of Intimacy: Searching for the Divine in Modern Times'

“The Promise of Intimacy: Searching for the Divine in Modern Times”

St Ethelburga's Centre of Reconciliation and Peace, London

6pm Thursday 31 May

Chair: Fatimah Ashrif (Coexist House)

Speakers: 

Farhana Mayer (University of Oxford)
Luigi Gioia (V
on Hügel Institute)
Christopher V. Jones (University of Oxford)

Many faith traditions have, in their different ways, offered pathways for those desiring a deeper intimacy with the Divine. We often hear of words such as 'spiritual', 'heart', and 'soul' , as a way of describing these dimensions.

A central theme shared across various Hindu, Islamic spiritual, and Roman Catholic mystical traditions is that the divine reality is not simply another entity far out there, dwelling perhaps on the top of the Himalayas or on the peripheries of the Milky Way, but is situated in the deepest interiorities of the human heart. Therefore, the ‘union’ with the divine involves processes of the cultivation of interiority through which the religious practitioner understands that the divine beloved is simultaneously extremely distant and intimately present.

In South Asia, such teachings lead some to believe in an underlying unity behind different faiths. We see this sometimes expressed at the level of popular spiritual piety. For example, the way in which the shrines of particular holy figures - such as Ajmer Sharif in India - become a meeting point of the faithful from many different traditions. Meanwhile, many have noted the popularity of 13th century Muslim mystic Rumi in the modern western world, amongst those of different faiths (and none), such as through incorporating his poetry and practices into their daily worship/spiritual practice.

Such practices are not often fully understood and might be perceived at best as syncretic or at worst unorthodox or even heretical by some more traditional voices.

The panel will seek to explore spiritual understandings as these might be expressed by different faiths and how these might be/ are practised. With a view to offering the audience a personal encounter with the very real and lived beliefs and practices of others, panelists will be asked to speak about the celebration of “Divine intimacy” within their traditions, their personal search, where it has taken them and what they have learned about themselves and the nature of Divinity, the spiritual tools they have used in seeking the divine and how this impacts their personal engagement with the world.

PUBLIC EVENT: Coexist House and Cambridge Inter-faith Programme South Asia Colloquium Series

last modified Oct 30, 2019 11:08 AM
Coexist House and the Cambridge Inter-Faith Programme presents a series of seminars exploring interfaith understandings and relations within South Asian communities at St Ethelburga's Centre for Reconciliation and Peace

The three panel discussions will be as follows: 

The first of these will take place on Thursday 31 May, starting at 6.30pm at St Ethelburga's Centre for Reconcilation and Peace in London. More details to follow, please contact us at team@interfaith.cam.ac.uk

https://www.interfaith.cam.ac.uk/

http://www.coexisthouse.org.uk/ 

https://stethelburgas.org/

RESEARCH: CIP Seminar - Dr Sami Everett

last modified Oct 30, 2019 10:45 AM
Event: Research Seminar in Inter-Religious Relations, Dr Sami Everett (CRASSH, University of Cambridge), ‘From Textiles to Telecoms: Retro Reinterpretations of North Africa in Postcolonial Parisian Jewish-Muslim Interaction’, Thursday 10 May 2018 12:00-14:00

Given by Dr Sami Everett (Research Associate, CRASSH, University of Cambridge):

From Textiles to Telecoms: Retro Reinterpretations of North Africa in Postcolonial Parisian Jewish-Muslim Interaction

A response to the paper will be given by Dr Ben Gidley (Birkbeck, University of London).

All welcome. There will be an informal lunch after the event: please email team@interfaith.cam.ac.uk if you would like to attend so that we have an idea of the numbers attending

Abstract

This talk investigates the enigma of Jewish North African sensibility and its intergenerational changes and continuities in Paris since 1981 through the notion of retro. After giving an historical overview of the Maghrebi presence in France and building the theoretical scaffolding on which retro sits in relation to ways of identifying with the Maghreb this talk proceeds by way of an ethnography of commercial exchange in the domain of textiles and globalised telecommunications as privileged locations for witnessing working and social relations with and across religious difference between Maghrebi Jews and Muslims and their descendants. I argue that an obfuscated Maghrebi centre exists to these relations across complex, little-known sites that lie at the meeting point of common cultural memories, mutual economic dependency, changing gender and class relations, and geopolitical conflict. More specifically, relationships between Jews and Muslims in the textiles and dress shops of la Goutte d’Or that we will discover are often defined by the desire to recover a variously expressed 'lost world' of the Maghreb. Retro, as a hermeneutic device to read Maghrebi Jewish imaginaries in Paris across generations, allows us to look at how contemporary re-conceptualisations of the past are utilised to negotiate an ethnically plural and potentially — through clearly not always — convivial present.

 Other Cambridge Inter-Faith Programme seminars this term:

Dr Susannah Ticciati (King's College London), 'Negotiating Conflicting Religious Truth Claim: Rabbinic and Christian Accounts in Dialogue'

Thursday 24 May, Seminar Room 7, Faculty of Divinity, 14:00-16:00

RESEARCH: CIP Seminar - Dr Reid B. Locklin

last modified Oct 30, 2019 10:42 AM
The Senior Seminar in Inter-Religious Relations presents Dr Reid B. Locklin (St Michael’s College, University of Toronto), ‘Conquering the Quarters, Preaching in Silence: an Interreligious Exploration of Missionary Advaita Vedānta’, Thursday 3 May 2018 11am-1pm

The Faculty of Divinity Introduces the Cambridge Inter-Faith Programme's second term-length Senior Seminar Series in Inter-Religious Relations. The second session of Easter Term will be given by Dr Reid B. Locklin, Associate Professor of Christianity and the Intellectual Tradition, St Michael’s College, University of Toronto. The paper is titled 'Conquering the Quarters, Preaching in Silence: an Interreligious Exploration of Missionary Advaita Vedānta', and a response will be given Dr Ankur Barua, Academic Director of CIP and Lecture in Hindu Studies at the Faculty of Divionity.. It will take place on Thursday 3 May, 11.00 am – 1.00 p.m. in Seminar Room 7, Faculty of Divinity. 

All welcome. There will be an informal lunch after the event: please email team@interfaith.cam.ac.uk if you would like to attend so that we have an idea of the numbers attending

Abstract

For some four centuries, Hindus and Christians engaged a public dispute about the real or imagined threat posed by aggressive Christian missionaries, intent on converting Hindus to a foreign tradition. In my presentation, I propose to reframe this controversy by shifting attention from the South Asian context and the history of this particular debate to a comparative study of “mission” itself, as a category of thought and practice. The presentation will focus particularly on the theologies of several Hindu missionaries in the modern era, who gave new expression to the non-dualist tradition of Advaita Vedānta and reinvented it as a global religious movement. Through an interreligious study of such movements, I suggest, mission and conversion are opened to re-signification, with consequences for both Hinduism and Christianity.

Other CIP seminars this term:

Dr Sami Everett (CRASSH, University of Cambridge), 'Maghrebinicité: North African Jewish experience in peri-urban Paris since 1981' Thursday 10 May, Lightfoot Room, Faculty of Divinity, 12:00-14:00

Dr Susannah Ticciati (King's College London), 'Negotiating Conflicting Religious Truth Claim: Rabbinic and Christian Accounts in Dialogue' Thursday 24 May, Seminar Room 7, Faculty of Divinity, 14:00-16:00

RESEARCH: CIP Seminar - Professor Marianne Moyaert

last modified Oct 30, 2019 10:35 AM
The Senior Seminar in Inter-Religious Relations presents Professor Marianne Moyaert, Chair of Comparative Theology and Hermeneutics of Interreligious Dialogue, VU University of Amsterdam: 'Ricoeur's Interreligious Hermeneutics, Prejudice, and the Problem of Testimonial Injustice'

Professor Marianne Moyaert, Chair of Comparative Theology and Hermeneutics of Interreligious Dialogue at VU University of Amsterdam will present a paper is titled 'Ricoeur's Interreligious Hermeneutics, Prejudice, and the Problem of Testimonial Injustice', and a response will be given by PhD student Barnabas Aspray. It will take place on Thursday 26 April, 2.00 pm – 4.00 p.m. in the Lightfoot Room, Faculty of Divinity. 

The session will be followed by informal refreshments in the Selwyn Room (Divinity).

All welcome. Please email team@interfaith.cam.ac.uk if you would like to attend.

Abstract and Background

I work as an interreligious educator, at a multireligious department of Theology and Religion at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, where both Christian, Muslim, Buddhist and Hindu ‘theologians’ are trained as well as religious scholars. My prime pedagogical responsibility in this department is to help form our students in such a way that they become interreligiously literate. Considering the fact that much contemporary societal conflicts are not only due to a lack of religious knowledge about different traditions but are also related to deep prejudices and misunderstandings this is an important pedagogical challenge.

The French philosopher Paul Ricoeur, who is sometimes called the philosopher of all dialogues, has especially shown himself to be a rewarding conversation partner in this process of developing an interreligious pedagogy. His hermeneutical anthropology, according to which we are all others has enabled me to dedramatise the challenge of interreligious learning. We all enter the hermeneutical circle as prejudiced beings and to understand is always to interpret. Though Ricoeur would dismiss any claim to full or complete comprehension just like he would meet all claims to neutrality with suspicion, there is no need to become fatalistic. Human beings (and here Ricoeur shows himself to be a heir of reflexive philosophy) are also capable of critical self-reflection and transformation.

For a long time I have aligned his hermeneutical philosophy and my interreligious education. This has resulted in a pedagogical approach which enables students to develop their skills of interpretation and provides ample opportunities for critical (self-)reflection. However, based on several years of teaching experience in a multireligious context, I have become increasingly conscious of some of the limits of Ricoeur’s interreligious hermeneutics: his hermeneutics lacks a power analysis, which reckons with the majority-minority dynamics in the classroom, as a consequence of which some are more different than others just like some are more prejudiced than others. It has been my educational experience that what some students bring to the conversation is simply not taken seriously, not because they do not have anything significant to say nor because of an innocent misunderstanding, but rather because what they say does not fit in the dominant (often implicit) hermeneutical framework of the majority. The end result is what epistemologist Miranda Fricker would call testimonial injustice, which “happens whenever prejudice on the part of a hearer causes them to attribute a deflated level of credibility to a speaker’s word.” (Fricker 2007)  

In my presentation, I wish to do three things. First, I will briefly provide a Ricoeurian approach to interreligious learning as an encounter between self and other. Secondly, and based on a particular case that I have drawn from my teaching experience, I will explain how Ricoeur’s hermeneutics lacks a power analysis, which likewise limits his capacity to grabble with the problem of testimonial injustice and I will explain how this negatively affects the learning opportunities of students in a multireligious classroom. Last but not least, I will formulate the beginnings of a critical interfaith pedagogy in an effort to overcome the problem of testimonial injustice.

I have particularly benefitted from Ricoeur’s suggestion to think of interreligious dialogue as a practice of linguistic hospitality.

 

Other seminars this term:

Dr Reid B. Locklin (University of Toronto), 'Conquering the Quarters, Preaching in Silence: an Interreligious Exploration of Missionary Advaita Vedānta'

Thursday 3 May, Seminar Room 7, Faculty of Divinity, 11:00-13:00

Dr Sami Everett (CRASSH, University of Cambridge), 'Maghrebinicité: North African Jewish experience in peri-urban Paris since 1981'

Thursday 10 May, Lightfoot Room, Faculty of Divinity, 12:00-14:00

Dr Susannah Ticciati (King's College London), 'Negotiating Conflicting Religious Truth Claim: Rabbinic and Christian Accounts in Dialogue'

Thursday 24 May, Seminar Room 7, Faculty of Divinity, 14:00-16:00

 

NEWS: Job opportunities - Sultan Qaboos Professorship & CIP Research Associate

last modified Oct 30, 2019 11:00 AM
Inviting applications for a Professorship/CIP's Academic Director and for a Research Associate in Inter-Faith Relations (Fixed Term)

Sultan Qaboos Professorship

The Board of Electors to the Sultan Qaboos Professorship of Abrahamic Faiths and Shared Values invite applications for this Professorship from persons whose work falls within the general field of the Professorship to take up appointment on 1 October 2020 or as soon as possible thereafter.

Candidates will have an outstanding research record of international stature in the study of the relationships between Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, and their relationship to other traditions and to the modern world, and have the vision, leadership, experience and enthusiasm to build on current strengths in maintaining and developing a leading research presence. They will hold a PhD or equivalent postgraduate qualification.

Standard professorial duties include teaching and research, examining, supervision and administration. The Professor will be based in Cambridge.

Closing date: 2 December 2019

More information/advertisement here.

Further particulars here.

Research Associate in Inter-Faith Relations (Fixed Term)

The Faculty of Divinity invites applications for a new fixed-term appointment as Research Associate (Grade 7) in the field of Modern Inter-Faith Relations for nine months from 1 January 2020 or as soon as possible thereafter (Grade 7, £32,816-£40,322).

The successful candidate will be expected to undertake his/her own research in an area relevant to the interests of CIP, and can expect some appropriate mentoring. The appointee will be expected to contribute to the research and public engagement profile of CIP and to do some administration. Candidates should already possess a doctoral degree in a relevant discipline. The person appointed will be based in the Faculty of Divinity in Cambridge.

Closing date: 25 November 2019

More information/advertisement here.

 

 

RESEARCH: Leverhulme Visiting Professor Lecture & Seminar in Inter-Religious Relations - Dr Asad Q. Ahmed

last modified Oct 30, 2019 11:02 AM
The Senior Seminar in Inter-Religious Relations and Leverhulme Visiting Professor Lectures from Professor Asad Q. Ahmed: 'Scripture and Logic' and 'Prophethood, Sectarian Politics, and Rationalist Disciplines in Nineteenth Century India', will take place on Thursday 1 March and Friday 2 March 2018, 12.00 pm – 1.30 p.m. in the Lightfoot Room, Faculty of Divinity.

This term the Faculty of Divinity is introducing a new Senior Seminar series in Inter-Religious Relations. Our second session will be spread across two seminars and will be given by the Leverhulme Visiting Professor Asad Q. Ahmed. The two sessions, 'Scripture and Logic', and 'Prophethood, Sectarian Politics, and Rationalist Disciplines in Nineteenth Century India' will take place on Thursday 1 March and Friday 2 March, 12.00 pm – 1.30 p.m. in the Lightfoot Room, Faculty of Divinity. 

Both sessions will be followed by an informal lunch in the Selwyn Room (Divinity).

All welcome. Please email team@interfaith.cam.ac.uk if you would like to attend the lunch, so we can have an idea of numbers. 

 

Abstracts

'Scripture and Logic'

In the history of Muslim exegesis, Qurʾān, Chapter 8, Verse 23, posed a vexing challenge.  On the one hand, the contextually-grounded interpretation of the passage meant the abandonment of several foundational claims and canonical elements of the Sunnī theological system.  And on the other hand, the preservation of this system required reading practices that generally lacked historical recognition.  In other words, a significant tension existed between the elaborated system that constituted the grounds of Sunnī theological discourse and the traditionally-preferred hermeneutics on the integral Qurʾānic lemma.  This lecture presents some historical approaches to this verse, with the focus resting on a treatise by the Ottoman scholar Ismāʿīl Gelenbevī (1143-1205/1730-91).  It concludes with some broader reflections on how the latter scholar imagined the relation of logic to scripture.

'Prophethood, Sectarian Politics, and Rationalist Disciplines in Nineteenth Century India'

This paper presents a partial theory of commentarial practices and of the genre of commentary/gloss in postclassical philosophical writings in the Muslim world.  The thesis is based on the study of a seventeenth-century logic text produced in Muslim India and a range of commentaries it inspired.  The case study focuses on the subject term of propositions.

Asad Q. Ahmed is associate professor of Arabic and Islamic Studies at the University of California, Berkeley.  He is the author of The Religious Elite of the Early Islamic HijazAvicenna's Deliverance, and of the forthcoming Palimpsests of Themselves:  Philosophical Commentaries in Postclassical Islam.  He has written several articles and co-edited collected volumes in the areas of Islamic history, philosophy in the Islamic world, and on Muslim legal theories.

Sessions will be chaired and responded to by Dr Tony Street, Faculty of Divinity, University of Cambridge.

 

Senior Seminar: An Overview

Since its 2002 founding, the Cambridge Inter-faith Programme has pursued questions of ‘interactive particularity’ among religious traditions, in terms of both academic research and public engagement.  This intellectual approach seeks to avoid the assumption of universal or ahistorical essences or impulses present in all cultures and individuals, sometimes marked as ‘comparativist’ approaches. Instead, it draws attention to the formation of the identity-bearing particularities of religious traditions, exploring the internal character, the forms of intentionality and the practices associated with these identities. In this respect, we seek to keep in play both theological and religious studies approaches, in the expectation that this mode of enquiry will yield a deeper understanding of the complexities associated with inter-faith relations, and how and where we might begin to analyse them.

In establishing the Seminar, we encourage a broad and inter-disciplinary interpretation of ‘interactive particularity’. The heuristic value of each of these explorations lies in how studying the profound engagements between religious ideas, embodied lives and texts develops a more nuanced understanding of the traditions themselves. Topics include Jewish, Christian, and Muslim engagement with Platonism, the role of religious texts and traditions of interpretation, the use of particular spaces by separate religious traditions, and contemporary engagements with science, ethics, the law, and forms of secularism. We are also interested in analyses of ‘inter-faith’ and related ideas as objects of study, such as evaluations of conceptual and methodological approaches associated with this field.    

New Senior Seminar in Inter-Religious Relations

last modified Oct 14, 2019 10:36 AM
The very first Senior Seminar in Inter-Religious Relations is "Divine Law and Human Intervention: Judaism, Christianity, Islam and the US Constitutional Debate". It will take place on Thursday, 1 February, 11.00 am – 1.00 p.m. in the Lightfoot Room, Faculty of Divinity.

This term the Faculty of Divinity is introducing a new Senior Seminar series in Inter-Religious Relations. Our first session will be on 'Divine Law and Human Intervention: Judaism, Christianity, Islam and the US Constitutional Debate', and will take place on Thursday, 1 February, 11.00 am – 1.00 p.m. in the Lightfoot Room, Faculty of Divinity. 

Speaking: 

- Dr Holger Zellentin, Lecturer in Classical Rabbinic Judaism, Faculty of Divinity, Cambridge

Responding:

- Dr Daniel Weiss, Polonsky Coexist Senior Lecturer in Jewish Studies, University of Cambridge
- Dr Sophie Lunn-Rockliffe, Lecturer in Patristics, University of Cambridge

This paper will contextualize the current debates in US constitutional law within the broad context of the Jewish, Christian and Islamic legal culture. Exploring the tension between human innovation and an ancient code seen as authoritative suggests striking similarities between these traditions and sheds new light on religious and political particularities of past and present.

After our opening seminar on 1 February, we will host Professor Asad Ahmed (University of California, Berkeley, and Visiting Fellow, University of Cambridge) on 1 March.

Senior Seminar: An Overview

Since its founding, the Cambridge Inter-Faith Programme has pursued questions of ‘interactive particularity’ among religious traditions, in terms of both academic research and public engagement.  This intellectual approach seeks to avoid the assumption of universal or ahistorical essences or impulses present in all cultures and individuals, sometimes marked as ‘comparativist’ approaches. Instead, it draws attention to the formation of the identity-bearing particularities of religious traditions, exploring the internal character, the forms of intentionality and the practices associated with these identities. In this respect, we seek to keep in play both theological and religious studies approaches, in the expectation that this mode of enquiry will yield a deeper understanding of the complexities associated with inter-faith relations, and how and where we might begin to analyse them.

In establishing the Seminar, we encourage a broad and inter-disciplinary interpretation of ‘interactive particularity’. The heuristic value of each of these explorations lies in how studying the profound engagements between religious ideas, embodied lives and texts develops a more nuanced understanding of the traditions themselves. Topics include Jewish, Christian, and Muslim engagement with Platonism, the role of religious texts and traditions of interpretation, the use of particular spaces by separate religious traditions, and contemporary engagements with science, ethics, the law, and forms of secularism. We are also interested in analyses of ‘inter-faith’ and related ideas as objects of study, such as evaluations of conceptual and methodological approaches associated with this field.    

 

PUBLIC EVENT: Am I My Brother's Keeper? Responding to the Syrian Refugee Crisis

last modified Oct 30, 2019 11:12 AM
Dr Georgette Bennett, head of the Multifaith Alliance and her colleague Mr Shadi Martini, Syrian refugee and humanitarian activist will be talking about responses to the current refugee crisis. Join us for what promises to be a thought-provoking presentation with information direct from the field.

Find out the story behind the headlines and learn how we can respond.

Click here to book your place

Our speakers:

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.

To register your place please click here

BLOG: Interview with The Revd Dr James Walters

last modified Oct 30, 2019 11:06 AM
Dr James Walters, chaplain and inter-faith advisor at the London School of Economics (LSE), discusses the challenges and opportunities posed by religious diversity on university campuses.

Dr James WaltersIn 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.

BLOG: Exploring the past and future of inter-faith dialogue

last modified Oct 30, 2019 11:10 AM
Jenny Kartupelis of the World Congress of Faiths (WCF) explores the development of inter-faith dialogue over the past century, and looks forward to a fascinating conference coming up in September.

WCF Blog Image

 

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.

BLOG: The 'Story Tent' - Scriptural Reasoning in primary schools

last modified Oct 30, 2019 11:11 AM
Researcher and primary school teacher Anne Moseley talks about the impact of the 'Story Tent' - an immersive way of introducing children to inter-faith dialogue

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.

 

Story Tent 5 Scaled ImageThe Setting

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.

 

Story Tent 4 Scaled Image 

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. 

 

Story Tent 3 ScaledThoughts 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)

Story Tent 1 (scaled down).jpg

 

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.

BLOG: Learning to teach one another

last modified Oct 30, 2019 11:08 AM
Former CIP Public Education Manager Miriam Lorie explores the enduring power of the Senior Faith and Leadership Programme and its capacity to forge relationships of difference.

Miriam 2016It’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.

 

 

SFLP March 2016
SFLP March 2016

 

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

 

D0969-0140.jpgAnd 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.

 

D0969-0018.jpg

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

 

D0969-0091.jpg

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."

 

Onjali Rauf
Founder & CEO, Making Herstory

 

D0969-0046.jpg

 

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.  

 

 

Apply to be a participant in the next programme

NEWS: Refugees in Art and Religion

last modified Oct 30, 2019 11:07 AM
In 2016 CIP team members Nadiya Takolia and Miriam Lorie traveled to the Salvation Army Headquarters in London to participate in a powerful inter-faith event.

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. 

 

Scriptural Reasoning from Salvation Army IHQ on Vimeo.

 

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.

 

Station 10
Guler Ates, 'Sea of Colour' (in progress), 2016

 

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. 

 

Discover more

 

Read more about the event.

Read more about the 'Stations of the Cross' exhibition.

Discover Scriptural Reasoning.

BLOG: The Sermon on the Mount and the Practice of Interreligious Friendship

last modified Oct 30, 2019 10:46 AM
CIP Director Dr Ankur Barua reflects on the life of missionary, educator, and social reformer Charles Freer Andrews.

Meet the Team Ankur
CIP Director Dr Ankur Barua
When I first heard about the Cambridge Interfaith Programme, my first response was ‘Ah, Charlie is alive at Cambridge!’.

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’.

 

Charles Freer Andrews (at work)

 

Andrews’ life is then the narrative of an Edwardian Anglican who journeys out to the far country, and finds his Christ waiting for him on unexpected roads, beside unknown rivers, and in unfamiliar mountains.

 

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, ‘betabeta’ (‘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

 

Charles Free Andrews commemorative stamp (The Gandhi Foundation)

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.

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