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Section F: Relations with other World Religions

85.  We recognise that we live today in a world where many faiths live side by side. We encounter each other on a daily basis and as neighbours are drawn into dialogue together. Such dialogue, in truth, arises from our love and concern for all humanity, who like us are created in the image and likeness of God.

86. One bishop, born into a Hindu family in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh), told of the persecution he experienced by Muslims in his early years. Some time later, after moving to India, he became seriously ill. On his sick bed in a missionary hospital he experienced the love of Jesus and says that it transformed his life and especially the way he sees other people, including Muslims. Now, besides the 35,000 Anglicans of his diocese, he feels a responsibility in his episcopal ministry for all the people of the region in which he lives, of whatever faith.

87. In the national Inter-Confessional Committee of Peru we learnt that Palestinians - mainly middle aged men and women - were unable to visit their elderly parents living on the West Bank. A deputation of us - Christians and Jews - went with them to the Israeli Embassy and spoke to the Ambassador. We explained that they did not want to pass through the territory of Israel but would reach the West Bank through Jordan. The Ambassador told us that he could not authorise visas and that they would be unlikely to receive them. However, he said that as a last resort we could write to the Israeli Prime Minister and appeal to him. Together we wrote to Ariel Sharon and, to the surprise and joy of us all, within three months all the members of the group received their visas and were able to travel. This action by the Committee has radically changed the atmosphere of the Inter-Confessional Committee and the participation of the Muslim community in a predominantly Roman Catholic culture, and their friendship.

88. The good news we share is of a God who loves all, who invites them into the fellowship of his Spirit and the grace-filled embrace of his Son Jesus Christ. In our relations with those of other faiths we are committed to honour other people’s humanity, to serve them and to show them Christ. Our meeting together with those of other faiths is often spoken of as dialogue. Dialogue comes from the Greek and means literally through word(s) and for Christians the Greek word logos is also the word used in John’s Gospel for Jesus, the Word of God.

89. The purpose of dialogue is not compromise, but growth in trust and understanding of each other’s faith and traditions. Effective and meaningful dialogue will only take place where there is gentleness, honesty and integrity. In all of this, we affirm that Christianity needs to be lived and presented as “a way of life”, rather than a static set of beliefs.

90. Perhaps there are situations where the word conversation is a more appropriate word than dialogue, and it is clear that hospitality is a key principle for dialogue. As one bishop said, “the business of dialogue can break down, but hospitality will not.” We need to learn the Benedictine principle of hospitality, which is about relationships - making space in our hearts for one another.

91. We honour the special relationship we have, as Christians, with the Jewish community. It was a delight and honour for the Conference to be addressed by Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks, Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth. His paper moved and challenged us with a powerful presentation on the biblical understanding of covenant, which enables God's people to face the future without fear. Covenant, he insisted, is the redemption of solitude. If we can honour a covenant of fate together, we make space for God and each other and move forward together towards a covenant of faith. In a moving final appeal, he noted that the Anglican Communion has held together more gracefully than any other religion he knows. We renew our commitment to on-going dialogue and genuine friendship with the Jewish People.

92. Dialogue and action together for the promotion of the wider common good should go together. Bishops spoke of the common challenges facing humankind and our people, for example poverty, water, malaria, HIV and AIDS, disasters. As we commit ourselves to the issues raised, for example, by the Millennium Development Goals, it is clear that we must stand and work together with other faith communities and all people of good will.

93. The contexts within which the Church ministers around the world vary widely and the potential for inter faith dialogue will vary accordingly. In some situations, Christians are faced with hostility and even persecution, and entering into dialogue with people of other faiths can be difficult and even dangerous, if not impossible. We recognise that our fractured Communion is at times impairing dialogue and sometimes making it impossible.

94. We urge local churches to contextualise their faith in such a way that Christianity is no longer seen as a western faith, especially in minority settings. This is particularly important in the light of the "war on terror".

95. There are many instances where Christians are a minority in our world and other faiths are growing. In such contexts there may be active discrimination against Christians. In those places where the Church is under pressure or facing situations of conflict, the support and encouragement of the wider Communion will be of real importance. Where Christians are in a majority, other faiths may experience similar forms of pressure or discrimination and the Church, as always, should be aware of and offer support to minorities who suffer human rights abuses. We recognise the human right of individuals to convert from one faith to another.

96. There are situations, particularly in secular societies, where faith is regarded as no more than an aspect of culture. The Christian faith will always need to challenge this way of understanding.

97. There is a need for education to help all the baptised to understand and engage with people of other faiths. In furtherance of this we urge that interfaith understanding be part of theological formation.

98. We recognise that there are some situations in which engagement with and understanding of traditional religions is part of our responsibility. Furthermore, the growth of New Religious Movements should be addressed through appropriate structures.

Initiatives

NIFCON should be encouraged to facilitate the sharing of stories and good practice and make more widely known its guidelines of best practice.

Resources

The Report of the Lambeth Conference of 1998

Generous Love: The report "Generous Love: the truth of the Gospel and the call to dialogue (an Anglican theology of inter faith relations)", was offered by NIFCON, the Network for Inter Faith Concerns for the Anglican Communion, and used as the resource for the Indaba session on 'Engaging with People of other Faiths'. The document was welcomed and commended for study in the Anglican Communion. Available here.

A Common Word for the Common Good: the Archbishop of Canterbury's letter to the signatories of "A Common Word Between Us and You", an open letter from Muslim religious leaders and scholars.Available here

Strengthening Anglican Identity

99. In the light of this great vocation, we have to ask ourselves what the distinctive contribution of the life of the Anglican Communion is to God’s Mission, and to the proclamation of the Gospel.  What is the distinctive vision of Christian faith embodied in the history and heritage of the Anglican Churches which can be offered to our sisters and brothers in Christ and to the world in the service of Christian discipleship and in the healing of the world?  As bishops in the Anglican Communion, we recognise and cherish four particular dimensions to our life in communion: that we are formed by scripture, shaped by worship, ordered for communion, directed by God’s mission.  These four notes call us to enrich our life together, and require us to address honestly and frankly the tensions at work within the Anglican Communion.  In exploring Anglican identity, we therefore address directly the tensions concerning human sexuality, and the way in which we understand the authority of scripture in our life.  Finally, we consider the place of the recommendations of the Windsor Report 2004 in our life together, and address the proposal for an Anglican Covenant.

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