The annual Inter Faith Day organised by Katharina Müller, Interreligious Adviser to the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales, was one which was highly illuminating and engaging for all concerned.
The day began with glorious sunshine, bathing the interns with its mid-November warmth, as we made the short walk to the Al Manaar Islamic Centre. We were greeted by a very welcoming and jovial member of the community, called Fahim, who was to be our guide for the visit (He was called Fahim). We were shown into the Centre and were given a tour around the entire facility, including the mosque area.
The tour allowed the group to see the inner workings of a mosque and the various elements to it including; a carefully monitored library, a crèche, toilets with extensive ablution facilities in line with Muslim practices. The carefully sculpted furniture and décor was all embossed with Arabic script from the Quran.
|(Lucy, Stephen, Dominic, Matthew, Fahim and the Imam)|
On completing the tour we then had a spot of traditional mint tea and baklava whilst Fahim answered some questions that the interns had. We were then guided to the Friday prayer ceremony, the girls to the balcony which had screens so that their view was restricted, and the men to the mosque itself. The imam began with a sermon in Arabic that lasted over half an hour and then gave a brief story in English. At this point the male interns were asked to leave the room so that the congregation could complete their cycles of prayer. The numbers present at the ceremony were vast and the 3 rooms in the mosque could not accommodate all of the men.
Afterwards the women were allowed back into the company of the men and the Director of the mosque came to say a brief hello and offered a warm welcome to us. The misconception was that we were all on a “Bishops Training Scheme”, something which we were quick to point out was against the laws of the Church and utterly absurd!
We were then given Fahim’s email address, mobile number, BBM code, Facebook, Twitter and other such means of communication if we had any further questions.
On leaving the mosque we made our way across London for a deliciously pescatarian lunch in the company of our mentor and guide Edward Davies (unfortunately on this occasion Julia was otherwise engaged).
This was swiftly followed with a rather unique tour of religious artefacts in the V&A museum which was an experience not to be forgotten easily. The amount of artefacts shown and the extremely thorough explanations of each one’s origin, purpose, potential owner and star sign engaged the interns for over two hours. We all had a marvellous time.