“Inter-faith dialogue should be written into DNA of Catholics”

David Jackson (left) with Fr Peter Hughes of Columban Justice & Peace

David Jackson (left) with Fr Peter Hughes of Columban Justice & Peace

“Inter-faith dialogue should be written into the DNA of Catholics” an enthusiastic inter-faith worker told a gathering of Justice and Peace activists last Saturday in London. David Jackson, the Bradford-based Leeds Diocesan Inter-faith Officer, said that “every baptised person has a role in dialogue”. He showed images of various initiatives in Leeds Diocese which he called a “dialogue of action”. There were shots of participants in a ‘Walk for Friendship’ in Keighley and a youth celebration involving young Sikhs, Hindus, Jews, Muslims and Christians. An inter-faith prayer gathering and barbeque at Columba House in Bradford was particularly poignant since one of the Columban priests who hosted the gathering for five years and appeared in the photos – Fr Pat McCaffrey – died of a heart attack earlier this year in Pakistan. “People of other faiths are not from Mars” said David “and even if they were, they’re part of God’s creation!”

David was speaking to around 40 representatives of dioceses, agencies and missionary societies at the quarterly meeting of National Justice and Peace Network, held at CAFOD headquarters. He recommended study of the new teaching document, ‘Meeting God in Friend and Stranger’. This major publication on interreligious relations was produced in May this year by the Bishops Conference of England and Wales, and he described it as “revolutionary”. He recalled that when Pope Benedict spoke to members of different religions at Twickenham during his recent visit he referred to the document and said, “the effort to reach out in friendship to the followers of other religions is becoming a familiar part of the mission of the local Church and a characteristic of the religious landscape of this country”.   

The document was some ten years in the writing and was supported in those years by the Bishops' Committee for Other Religions of which David is a member. More than 7,000 copies have already been sold by the Catholic Truth Society so there is considerable interest in its recommendations. The Justice and Peace activists present were urged to collaborate with other faiths in their work for the common good and to note that every diocese has an inter-faith coordinator and every local authority an inter-faith council.

This week – 21-27 November - is Inter-Faith Week  www.interfaithweek.org

‘Meeting God in Friend and Stranger’ can be downloaded at: www.catholic-ew.org.uk/Catholic-Church/Publications

The theme for Peace Sunday on 16 January 2011 is ‘Religious Freedom – the path to peace’
Materials for download at:  www.paxchristi.org.uk/PeaceSunday.html

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