“Interfaith, Cities and Government” – is a new project launched by the European Council of Religious Leaders ECRL in October 2016, bringing together interfaith leaders and local governments from European cities, to share best practice, exchange knowledge, and explore collaboration.

A first exchange was held in Berlin on October 2016 and the second exchange was held on the 30-31st of January 2017 in London. Discussions held in the January exchange included the growing fears and insecurities within communities following terrorist attacks, engagement with people and perspectives that are not familiar to interfaith circles and the structures of support between government and interfaith projects.

Participants discussed collaboration between key cities in Europe and linking events, and perhaps co-producing media to help address some of the issues discussed concerning rising sectarianism.

Interfaith leaders debated on the observation that it was easier for governments to engage with predominant religions, taking the advantage of their structures into account. However it was also recognised “that capacities of the young religions in Europe will grow in time and should be supported to do so”.

They emphasised the importance of teaching common values of all religions through schools and the importance of teaching children basic values. Interfaith communities are in need of creating spaces for communities to challenge each other safely and constructively, participants said: “We need to be able to pick up on changes and be brave in challenging destructive attitudes.” It was noted that certain media representatives contribute to the fear of communities: “Media have thrived upon anti-Islamic headlines and it has become more and more intense.”

London participants shared what they thought were some current, best-practise examples of interfaith projects in the City. Catriona Robertson shared the church-mosque twinning project, as well as a Christian-Muslim ‘disagreement group’. Jasvir Singh OBE shared Faiths Forum for London, Maurice Ostro talked about the establishment of Collaboration House, and Commander Mak Chishty shared his processes for consulting faith leaders on critical public statements. During the previous exchange, Berlin shared Kulturdialog, 1219 Religions Forum for Dialogue on Religion and the Long Night of Religions.

A report on the project is currently being drafted and will be available on the ECRL website very soon.

Participants have included Mrs. Feride Funda G.-Gençaslan (Head of Sufi-Zentrum Rabbaniyya ‘Der Wahre Mensch e.V.’) Commander Mak Chishty (Metropolitan Police London), Catriona Robertson (London Boroughs Faiths Network), Jasvir Singh OBE (Co-Chair Faiths Forum London), Hartmut Rhein (Senate Chancellary Berlin), Dr Thomas Schimmel (1219 Religions- and Kulturdialog Berlin), Pastor Peter Jorgensen (Community of Evangelical Free Churches Berlin), Rev Dr Thomas Wipf (ECRL Moderator ), Jehangir Sarosh OBE (ECRL General Secretary), Dr Mark Owen (ECRL Deputy General Secretary), Rebecca Bellamy (ECRL Secretariat Manager), Maurice Ostro (Chairman of the Fayre Share Foundation), Aya Bdaiwi (Faiths Forum for London), Mrs. Ranjit Kaur (Member of Sikh congregation Berlin), Paul Double (London City Remembrancer).

The European Council of Religious Leaders – Religions for Peace (ECRL) brings together senior religious leaders from Europe’s historical religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam together with Buddhists, Hindus, Sikhs and Zoroastrians. ECRL has participatory status with the Council of Europe. ECRL is one of five regional Interreligious Councils within the Religions for Peace network. Religions for Peace – accredited to the United Nations – is the world’s largest and most representative multi-religious coalition advancing common action for peace since 1970.

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