Last night I went to a great speaker meeting organised by Imperial’s Ahlul Bayt Society who represent Shia Muslims. The session was on religion as a motivation to work for social justice. There were two speakers who knew each other well and it was a delight to see them working together. Sayed Ali Abbas Razawi talked about the witness to truth and peace given by Iman Husain the grandson of the Prophet Mohammed. His friend Rev’d Nadim Nasser talked about his reflections as a Christian about the life of Iman Husain’s. It was great to see both speakers easily talking about their own religious tradition and that of someone else. Both were able to talk with authority about Jesus and Husain and share their reflections. It was a partnership performance that encouraged me greatly – deep dialogue and understanding between people from different religious traditions is clearly possible. But it does require a true committment to the deep sources of transformation in ones own faith.
Nadim talked about needing to ‘learn the art of difference’. Encountering people with very different views, experiences and cultures requires her argued a set of simple skills. They key thing was to get used to knowing our fear of the unknown. When we practice this we find it easier to be in a place where we know very little and have everything to learn. This made sense to me after all our interfaith dialogue work over years. And apart from Nadim I was the only non-Shia Muslim in the room.