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Response to “A Common Word” from youthencounter.org.uk

19 January, Aston, Birmingham

This is our response to the letter with the title ‘A Common Word’. Today a group of Christian and Muslim young people met up to discuss our views of similarities and differences on God. We all agreed that love for God and love for our neighbours is important.

With respect to loving our God we understand that both religions believe that love involves action. However we discovered that our love for God is different with each person. Some of the Muslims said that their love was more devotion and that loving Allah means that he remains within our hearts. We believe that God remaining in our hearts is revealed in both of these religions. We discovered that our types of prayer were different. Muslims will try to pray five times a day at certain times in the day. If this is not possible they pray when they are able to and they show devotion to their prayers.

Our emotions about God are that he is with us all the time.

Some Christians will pray when they want to and don’t have specific times in which they pray, just when they feel like it.

We believe praying comes from the heart just like our love for God. We have the intention and action to pray and love God and not just think about it or read it. We feel God’s love and try to express that to other people, those that we know and those that we don’t know.

There are songs that Christians sing about God as Father and about Jesus as our friend. These songs are sung in times when we need them.

Forgiveness we sometimes find hard if people are being unkind to us and we find it hard to forgive even though we know it is the right thing to do. Within school it can also be hard talking about faiths and religions because of other people.

With respect to love for our neighbour we all said that everyone is our neighbour, those that we talk to, those that we see passing by and even those who are on the other side of the world or on TV. Being a good neighbour is showing our love to all these people regardless of their religion, what they look like or what type of work they do. The way we act to people shows our love for God, by being friendly to everyone and offering help to those who may need it. We can be a good neighbour to those that we don’t even meet by sticking up for other faiths who may be being slandered by people, by speaking positively about other people and their faith. We can talk about our experiences to these kind of people and explain what we have heard of each others’ faith. We find that some people are harder to give your view to, as some are open to hearing about faiths whereas others don’t want to know, and ignore what you have to say to them.

We spoke about not stereotyping different religions, for example saying Muslims believe this, and they all believe certain things. We should not judge others because they don’t do the things that we do, and the same about Christianity and other religions.

Some other thoughts that came up:

  • Loving God can mean loving his creation.
  • He has created us all individually so we should love each other.
  • Muslims fight to do right within themselves and want to do the right things. (Inner battle within the heart) (Greater Jihad)
  • Loving people could acknowledge that they have done things to upset you, and then not just taking it without a response, but also saying sorry for the things that you may have done to them.
  • Guidelines for dialogue – we had a series of guidelines drawn up to facilitate our discussions, with the objective of aiding discussion but avoiding conflict. These were very helpful

It’s been an interesting day of being able to speak to those of different faiths and we found that within our discussions we agreed with each other. We found that we generally (outside of today) talk and hear more about conflict than what we have in common. It was also nice to speak to others to be able to understand other people’s religions, and the way their faith influences their lives and their worship of God. We have seen that there are many strong points in which values between the faiths are very similar and so we find it easier to talk about these points.

We found that in meeting those that have different faiths we were able to find out about each other’s faith, but also discover more about our own faith. We decided that it would be better to talk to each other about our different faiths, rather than criticise and argue about each others faith and try to prove that the other person’s faith is “wrong”.

Sometimes it may be easier to discuss our faith because we are talking about faith within education, but we also have the pressure of learning our own faith.