From my contribution to the weekend edition of Sunderland Echo:
Interfaith Week begins on Sunday, and it has become an important part of the life of the city. Sunderland has become increasingly diverse demographically, and has begun to play its rightful place in the global arena, both economically and socially. Theologically (how we speak about God) that poses new questions for us as a community. In recent years, we have increasingly began to share our streets with people of other faiths: Sikhs, Hindus, Muslims, Jews and Buddhists. This inevitably leads us to grow in terms of faith, as we recognise God is at work around us in new ways.
Sunderland is quite rightly proud of its great Christian heritage, but it has always worked out how to live alongside God’s diverse world. At St Peter’s monastic community in the 7th and 8th century, there is evidence of shared learning between Islamic and Egyptian Coptic traditions, mostly because of the trade routes that existed at the time, which allowed ideas, as well as ‘goods’ to travel across the globe.
Now the world has come more directly to us, in our streets and communities, and it is time that we shared all that is great about our faiths more directly. Our Christian heritage encourages us to show hospitality, and to recognise through Jesus’ story of the Good Samaritan (someone from another faith) that it is our love for others that is more important than our words or our creed.
This week presents us with a good excuse to get to know our neighbours better and learn a deeper respect for how God is at work in the world today.