Jesus and Muhammad: Is their message still relevant?

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This event took place in Blackburn Cathedral during Inter Faith Week November 2013.

The title being a closed question can lead one to answer either yes or no. However the in-depth speeches and workshops gave more time and views to discuss this question.

Both speakers had interesting information to share, which we can learn from and contextualise in our modern life.

 

  • Migration, segregation in the society: Julian Bond spoke about Jesus and explored some facts about his life through questions to the audience. Jesus lived in Galilee-Palestine, in the North, however he did much of his work in the South, which was a segregated society. He was an ‘outsider’.
  • He lived in a multi-faith and multicultural society, with Jews, Romans and others. He challenged the authority and de-facto rules affecting people’s lives, he spoke against discrimination.
  • Both Jesus and Muhammad spoke about being good neighbours.
  • Many other points can be learnt from Jesus, his interactions with different people, respecting everyone, not forcing anyone to convert. We were reminded of a verse from the Quran “preach in the most beautiful way” and not argumentatively.
  • It is common for those involved in inter faith, that it can be a strengthening and learning process, where we learn a lot about others and also ourselves and own faith.

 

Dr Musharraf Hussain spoke about Muhammad with references to current issues:

 - He said Muslims believe that God sent prophets everywhere (and not only in the East) to guide mankind. They had beautiful and spiritual messages for people. Those messages carry human values which resonate in every age and time.

 - Prophet Muhammad was sent to correct people’s beliefs and attitude to life. He provided new perspectives and vision of reality.

 - Both Jesus and Muhammad teach us to be balanced and simple in life and not judge others.

 - Dr Musharraf pointed out that during the time of the Prophet, people used to  create idols from clay and wood then worship them, but in these days, people have different idols: they are attached to their belongings such as cars, gadgets, houses, status etc. We need to go back to the prophetic message and get rid of our idols, in whatever shape or form they come.

- Prophets were sent to give answers to existential questions through divine knowledge, questions that people have always asked: “Who am I? Why am I here? Where am I going?

 

A poll was conducted on the day, asking Christian and Muslim attendees questions relating to the theme. Here are some of the findings:

  • Both believed that Jesus and Muhammad’s message is important today, with varying degree.
  • Most attendees believed that Jesus and Muhammad wouldn’t approve of the current economic system.
  • On the question regarding how Jesus and Muhammad would deal with young people, most attendees said they would talk with young people and be a listener.

 

Workshops on the day discussed different aspects of life and how Jesus and Muhammad would deal with them: on participation on women in mosques and churches, their response to current economic and political crises, their relation to youth, their view on environment and the health of the planet, and about inter faith work.

The workshop on the relation of Jesus and Muhammad with young people was interesting. Young people said they felt stereotyped with negative stigma attached to them, they were viewed as ‘lazy and not wanting to do anything’. They said young people were seen as lacking experience, wisdom, wanting everything at their fingertips and having no respect from others.

They said that the media also had a role in other’s perception of young people, being called ‘thugs’ and other similar descriptions influences the way we see young people. They said fairness is needed in covering youth related matters, by also showing the good work young people do and differentiating between youth.

An interesting question was put to the panel when we reconvened, on what the organisers ‘get out of the event’. Dr Shannon Ledbetter answered that Blackburn Cathedral had many similar conversations; they are important in bringing people together and are informative. She said that they learn a lot from these interactions and is a way to show them what to do next, as we are all on a journey.

The speakers’ different styles in approaching to the theme and sessions might have meant that everyone was able to understand the message at some level, and all added to an informative and inspiring event.
Many young people (most of the attendees) took part from local schools, their presence and participation added a positive layer to the event.

To conclude, here’s a feedback from an attendee: “I thought that having prayers at lunchtime that were interfaith was brilliant and I wish that more people had taken the other faith up on their invitation. A wonderful opportunity. The whole day was very inspiring and I am sure that your work makes a huge difference to our community.”

Attendees were tweeting on the day, you can find tweets through the following hashtag: #Jesus&Muhammad

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