It was a great honour and privilege last night to be a guest of the Scottish Shia community at an Eid meal to celebrate the end of Ramadan. The photograph shows me with Sayed Ali Abbas Razawi, the Director General of the Scottish Ahlul Bayt Society.
There are many reasons why we need to have interfaith meetings and many ways of doing it. Last night, the Shia community in Scotland offered us a wonderfully relaxed and easy way to go to engage with one another – they took us out for a meal. Well, it was more of a banquet than a meal, in the Village Curry House in Tradeston which served us splendid food.
The good thing about eating over a meal is that you can dip in and out of conversations – mixing chatter about where people are going on holiday with theological questions and all the while you are learning about each others traditions. As I hear the Shia people talk about the universal search for justice that they are engaged in, inspired by Imam Hussein, there are obvious connections to be made with the work for human rights and human dignity that Christians and other people of goodwill are engaged in.
And so we found ourselves chatting away about how Muslims and Christians think of John the Baptist, how we think about Middle East politics, the Usual Topic (human sexuality) and the interesting ways that people are arguing about it within our communities. And we talked about Scotland too – how it is changing and how we are changing in it. There were folk there from different parts of Scottish society – charities like Breast Cancer research and Alzheimers Scotland who are helped by the Shia community and services like the Fire Service and Blood Transfusion Service and there was an MSP representing the Scottish Government. Bishop Idris was representing the Trades House of Glasgow and there were loads of us from the Christian communities in Scotland – the Moderator of the General Assembly and the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Glasgow were tucking into the curry and naan with the rest of us.
I’m interested that sometimes these days the Christians meet best whilst engaging in conversation with people outwith Christianity. Ecumenism often doesn’t seem very exciting but Interfaith work sometimes makes it happen in a new and relaxed way that you don’t see coming. Last night, it was Muslims who brought the Christians together and that’s worth thinking about a very great deal.
So – thank you to the people who honoured us with their invitation last night. It was a wonderful example of religious generosity and a time when all kinds of relationships could be built.