The Three Faiths Forum meeting at 8.00pm on Thursday 31st January was held at South Woodford Mosque, which is very near South Woodford Station. The topic for the evening was: Violence in the name of Religion, and the speakers were Rabbi Larry Becker from Sukkat Shalom Synagogue in Wanstead, Dr. Mohammed Fahim from South Woodford Mosque and Revd. Alan Green from St. John’s Church in Bethnal Green.
Rabbi Becker spoke first, asserting that peace begins in the home, then in the street and finally in the world. He queried the idea that religion is ever peaceful, because each world religion has spread through violence, as in the Crusades and other holy wars. He claimed violence is innate in each of us, as it is in animals. This can be seen for example in road rage. However religion can teach us that others may be right and we may be wrong.
Revd Alan Green, who is chair of Tower Hamlets Faith Forum, spoke next. He reminded us about the violence which had taken place in East London over the years: 250 years ago three Huguenot weavers were hanged for allegedly taking the jobs of local people, the fascist Black Shirts marched in 1936 in the Battle of Cable Street, and more recently there have been attacks on Muslim immigrants.
He also mentioned violence and unrest at pilgrimage sites in the past – in Jerusalem where Jesus was put to death, in Rome where Christians were martyred, at Compostela in Spain, where St. James is believed to be buried. From there came violence against Muslims who had come to live in southern Spain in the eighth century. He said we must acknowledge violence was there in the name of religion.
Dr. Fahim spoke next, claiming the Holy Qur’an has been used to justify religious violence. Martyrdom is misrepresented by Islamic terrorists, who use verses such as ‘Fight unbelievers near you’ out of context, poisoning the minds of young people and contradicting Muslin values. The Qur’an actually forbids suicidal martyrdom. Holy wars are against the teachings of Mohammad. True Islam teaches peace, justice and tolerance.
A question and answer time followed with all three religious leaders agreeing that religion can be used for good or ill. However, all faiths should work together and religion should be used to enhance our lives.
The purpose of the Three Faiths Forum is to find common ground and promote fairness and equality. This was a good note to end on.
The next meeting of the Forum will be at 8.00pm on Thursday 21st March, discussing, Transgender Issues,.. The venue is yet to be announced.