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UK inter faith relations and impact of overseas events, particularly in Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East

A message from the Co-Chairs and Vice-Chairs to member bodies of the Inter Faith Network for the UK

12 August 2014

We wrote to you just over a week ago in the context of the potential impact on inter faith relations in the UK of events overseas at this time, and particularly in the Middle East.

Communities in this country continue to feel and voice tremendous pain about unfolding events. On the hearts and minds of people of different faiths are the sufferings of Christians, Yazidis and others in Iraq - as well as of those in Gaza and Israel, Syria, Libya and a number of other countries and territories.

Some of your organisations have issued statements about the situations there; others are expressing their desire for justice, security, and religious freedom through prayers, vigils, donations to provide badly needed relief, or through other routes.

Extreme actions taken by groupings overseas, such as ISIL, claiming to be in the name of a religion, can sometimes be taken to represent the true face of that religion, fanning flames of prejudice here as well as elsewhere. There is evidence that this is happening. Images of brutal deaths become fused in the minds of some not just with the perpetrators but with the religion in whose name they claim to operate. The work of continued explanation and correction of misrepresentation and misunderstanding through the media and in personal encounter is critically important.

As we said in our message of last Monday, at these times, our bonds of friendship and trust – long in the making – are tested. It is hard but vital to keep communication open and to continue to be willing to be in dialogue. It is likewise vital to stand up for the safety and security of each other's faith communities; to offer, side by side, humanitarian succour to the vulnerable and needy; and to seek ways, whenever this is possible, to find a common voice on human rights and on issues of justice and compassion.

The policy of the Inter Faith Network for the UK, supported and reaffirmed at various points over the years, remains that statements are not made by its Officers directly about overseas events, but only in the context of their impact on inter faith relations in the UK. This is also a policy of some of IFN's member bodies. The National Meeting, 'Tough to Talk?', on handling difficult issues in an inter faith context will provide an opportunity to hear reflections in the light of members' experience in responding here in the UK to overseas issues.

The Rt Revd Richard Atkinson OBE, Co-Chair
Mr Vivian Wineman, Co-Chair
Mr Mohinder Singh Chana, Vice-Chair
Dr Kishan Manocha, Vice-Chair
Maulana M Shahid Raza OBE, Vice-Chair
Dr Jagdish Sharma, Vice-Chair