The Three Faiths Forum meeting on Thursday 10th October was held at Al- Madina Mosque, which is near Barking Station. The topic for the evening was Welcoming the Stranger and the speakers were
Rabbi Lisa Barratt from Southwest Essex & Settlement Reform Synagogue, Allama Sadiq Quershi, an Imam and Revd. Tom Britt, from Wanstead Parish Church.
Rabbi Lisa Barratt spoke first, telling us that Welcoming Strangers is mentioned thirty-six times in the Hebrew Scriptures. The most famous instance is of Abraham welcoming three strangers to his tent
at Mamre. They turned out to be angels, bringing a message from God. Abraham made an effort to welcome them, washing their feet and providing food.
Today, Jewish people welcome strangers at their table at Passover and during the Festival of Booths/ Sukkot, when strangers are welcomed into the home. Weekly, at the Shabbat meal on Friday evening, strangers are also welcome.
She finished by saying that peace for all will come and we are all created in God’s image.
Imam Qureshi spoke next. He spoke of Abraham and Moses being strangers in their times of wandering and of the prophet Mohammed who was an orphan. He too welcomed strangers, showing love, peace and moral support to them.
He mentioned three things to remember from the Prophet Mohammed’s teaching: spread peace, unite people and pray for them.
Revd. Tom Britt spoke next. He reminded us that strangers could be homeless people here and abroad, refugees and people suffering whom we never see. He also mentioned Abraham’s story as a good example of welcoming strangers.
He referred to the book of Leviticus, where the Jewish people were advised to treat aliens as equals and in Deuteronomy chapter ten, it mentions God’s love as being impartial. The people that Jesus spoke to would have known these texts.
Jesus, as a baby, was himself a refugee in a defenceless position. Jesus teaches mercy and compassion.
In the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus teaches us to help people in need, regardless of their origins or race. The Samaritan in that parable put himself at risk, in an uncomfortable position. Jesus himself received hospitality, eating with tax collectors and sinners.
In the Book of Hebrews, Christians are advised to show hospitality to strangers as we could be entertaining angels unawares.
A question and answer time followed, with all three religious leaders agreeing that we should be welcoming to strangers regardless of their origins, not just in this country but overseas. Actions speak louder than words, and we as people of faith should have the same aim - to welcome people in need wherever they are.
The meeting ended with a sharing of delicious refreshments provided by our hosts, at the mosque, a time when we could talk informally with people of other faiths, realising how much we have in common, despite our differences.
The next meeting of the Forum will be an End of Year Celebration at a church in South Woodford, on Thursday 19th December.