Inter-Religious Dialogue Commission

Inter-Religious Dialogue Commission



Mr William Ozanne 3 Grove Avenue Birmingham B13 9RU Tel: 0121 449 3839 Email: [email protected]


Rev Fr Joseph The Quang Nguyen Our Lady and St Peter 106 Hartshill Road Stoke on Trent ST4 7LZ Tel. 01782 844308 Email: [email protected]

Members of the Diocesan Commission

Rev Ray Collier, Mr B Davies, Rev J Howard, Rev Bernard Kelly, Barbara McGowan, Rev Joseph The Quang Nguyen, Sister Anna O’Connor, Mr W Ozanne, Mr Erik Pearse, Rev S Pimlott, Dr J Seferta


Vision and Mission Inspired by the Biblical vision of “gathering into one the scattered children of God” (Jn 11:52), our Church teaching on relations with other religions and our own faith experience, the Commission for Inter-Religious Dialogue aims to promote throughout the diocese a greater awareness and understanding of other faiths, through dialogue, prayer and action.

In particular the commission seeks: to raise the profile of interfaith dialogue and understanding in the diocese as an integral part of our own evangelising mission and spirituality; to maintain a balance between the four interdependent forms of dialogue: 1. the dialogue of faith; 2. the dialogue of life; 3. the dialogue of action; 4. the dialogue of religious experience. (Cf. Dialogue & Proclamation 42-43) to ensure that we remain true to Catholic teaching in the way our faith is presented in interfaith dialogue and to seek reciprocity; to provide training and workshops about dialogue and understanding for both clergy and lay-people; to network & communicate with all Catholics in the diocese who identify with our vision and aims; to identify and make available resources for interfaith dialogue, prayer and action; to make contact with key leaders of other Faith Communities in the diocese and encourage people to do the same at local level with a view to dialogue; to keep abreast of communications from relevant sources (Rome, the Committee for Other Faiths of CBCEW, Interfaith Co-ordinators of other dioceses, CTBI, the National Inter Faith Network, West Midlands Faith Forum etc); to collaborate with organisations and diocesan programmes that might share common ground with us (e.g. Justice & Peace and Catechetics); to keep the Archbishop advised on interfaith matters.

Values Love & Respect – recognising every person as a beloved child of God in whom God’s Spirit dwells. (Cf. Dominum et Vivificantem) Freedom – based on the dignity of the human person. “Everyone has the right to the free exercise of religion in society” (Dignitatis Humanae 1&2; Pacem in Terris 14; c.f. UN Declaration of Human Rights). Unity – “considering what people have in common and what draws them to fellowship. One is the  community of all peoples, one their origin… One also is their final goal, God.” (NA 1). Truthfulness – understanding that “the Church rejects nothing that is true and holy” (NA 1). Justice & Peace – aware of the injustices that have been done in the name of religion yet also aware that we are “called to live in peace with all men” (Rom 12:18). Honesty & Forgiveness – forgiveness given for past offences against us, just as we ask for forgiveness from other religions for Christian offences against them. Hope – that with God’s help his scattered children will be gathered into one human family (Cf. Jn 11:52), so providing the dynamic for pursuing our mission.


For Inter Religious Web Links, go to the LINKS page.

Inter Faith Groups in the Diocese with Catholic Representatives:
Banbury Inter Faith [email protected]
Birmingham Council of Faiths [email protected]
Birmingham Faith Leaders’ Group [email protected]
Burton upon Trent Inter Faith Network [email protected]
Coventry Inter-Faith Group
Coventry Multi-Faith Forum [email protected] Dudley Borough Interfaith Network [email protected]
Moseley Inter Faith Group [email protected]
North Staffordshire Forum of Faiths [email protected]
Nuneaton Oxford Round Table of Religions [email protected]
Perry Barr Multi-Faith Network [email protected]
Rugby Inter Faith Forum [email protected]
Sandwell Multi-Faith Network [email protected]
Solihull Faiths Forum [email protected]
Solihull Inter Faith Dialogue Group [email protected]
Sparkbrook Muslim-Christian Dialogue Group
Stafford and District Friends of Faith Network [email protected]
Stratford upon Avon
Telford and Wrekin Interfaith Group (TWIG) [email protected]
Walsall Multifaith Forum [email protected]
Warwick District Faiths Forum [email protected]
Wolverhampton Faith and Regeneration Network [email protected] Wolverhampton Inter Faith Council [email protected]
Worcestershire Inter-Faith Forum [email protected]
Council of Christians and Jews Branches in the region Birmingham [email protected]






October 14th 2014

National and international:

The Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue: issued its annual letter to Muslims worldwide for the end of Ramadan 2014.

It began with a flourish:

“May the Transcendent Light illumine your hearts, homes and communities, and may all your celebrations deepen the sense of belonging to one another in your families and neighbourhoods, and so further harmony and happiness, peace and prosperity.”

It drew on both Pope Francis and John Paul II outreach to Muslims as fellow human beings “brother and sisters”, children of the One God “We acclaim God’s sovereignty and we defend man’s dignity as God’s servant We adore God and profess total submission to him. Thus, in a true sense, we can call one another brothers and sisters in faith in the one God.” ( John Paul II Kaduna, Nigeria, 14 February 1982). The letter stresses the acknowledgement of differences and the need for dialogue built on mutual respect and friendship and shared values, expressed in care for “ those most in need: the poor, the sick, orphans, immigrants, victims of human trafficking, and those suffering from any kind of addiction.” Care for the environment, the crisis of global economy and “the problems faced by so many families which have been separated, leaving behind loved ones and often small children” “. We will also demonstrate that religions can be a source of harmony for the benefit of society as a whole. Let us pray that reconciliation, justice, peace and development will remain uppermost among our priorities, for the welfare and good of the whole human family. “ Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran President Father Miguel Ángel Ayuso Guixot, MCCJ Secretary

The Vatican letter to Hindus for Dipavali is entitled:”Christians and Hindus together to foster a culture of inclusion”. It is full of key thoughts and I have attempted a shortened version in Appendix 3.

We are currently expecting the annual letter to Sikhs from the Pontifical Council for the Guru Nanak Jayanti on November 6th.


Our former clerical diocesan colleague Marcus Stock has been made Bishop of Leeds. He will be a neighbour of Toby Howarth, former Inter-Faith Adviser to the Anglican Bishop of Birmingham, who is now Bishop of Bradford.

Katharina Smith-Muller is now a happy mother of Emma : “she is doing well, and making us feel more blessed every day (more tired, too;).”

Katharina ‘s  series of Parish Newsletter notes and Bidding Prayers for major Faith feast days are available online..

The International Association for Religious Freedom: held its long awaited Congress at Birmingham University on 24-27 August. Interfaith Groups from Birmingham were involved in the preparation and welcome of visitors. Fr. Ignacio Rodrigues from Barcelona gave a paper on the importance of face to face dialogue in a world of cyber and digital media. He has worked with refugees, many of them Muslim for 30 years, founding   in 1984 the first Welcome Centre built in Spain for Sub-Saharan Africans in his parish of Mataro.[Appendix 1]

Charter For Forgiveness and Reconciliation: Dr. Josef Boehle a Catholic member of Birmingham University is the Director of this international project.. The work on the project has now reached the stage of launching and an international symposium took place in Birmingham on April 2nd, preceded by a reception involving  Dr William F. Vendley, Secretary General of Religions for Peace International ,a Co-convener of the Charter project and about 200 key people from Birmingham and internationally. One of whom as a member of the Reconciliation commission from Rwanda. The ssymposium served as a springboard to action on establishing the Charter for Forgiveness and Reconciliation in 2015. The proposed Charter aims to inspire and engage individuals, groups and communities, in public processes and in private settings, appealing to humanity to practice genuine forgiveness and reconciliation, seeking justice and sustainable peace. The proposed Charter for Forgiveness and Reconciliation will draw upon values, stories and examples from sacred texts and from different spiritual traditions, from religious/spiritual communities, and from the lives of outstanding individuals. With such paradigms, the Charter will direct commitment and activities towards a growing practice of forgiveness and reconciliation which humanity desperately needs in a fractured world.

The Diocesan Commission for Interreligious dialogue:

The Commission has joined with the Commission for Justice and Peace to organise a day of reflection on Iraq and the position of persecuted Christians there. This will be on Saturday November 15th at Newman House Harrison’s Road Birmingham. :Leaflets are being distributed in the ad Clerum and other networks. Information from [email protected]

The Commission have had concerns expressed by parish priests that teachers and head teachers in their schools have problems with being equipped to deal with multi-faith pupils in Catholic schools. The Commission members are very willing even eager to do what they can to help in this, if it can be established what the teachers and headteachers concerns and difficulties are. Is there any way this can be explored?



Mrs Barbara McGowan reports on the work of dialogue in Coventry: [Appendix 4]



The Annual Summer School of Scripture Study for young people of three faiths that takes place in Cambridge, visited Birmingham once again for one week of the course, On Sunday August 10 th they were be at Mass at St. John and St Martin de Porres Birmingham and paid a visit to the Anawim project for vulnerable women. The project was started by Sisters of Charity and works with women of all faiths an none.

Birmingham Faith Leaders Group: Currently [at time of writing] are on a visit to Amritsar and the Harimandir Sahib [ Golden Temple] Archbishop Bernard has made contact with the Catholic Bishop of Jullundur who has invited them to visit his seminary. The FLG held their annual prayers for peace in the Birmingham Peace Garden in memory of the disaster of 9/11 which brought about their foundation.

Birmingham Council of Faiths:. Has taken up the work formerly done by the Sacred Space group. A meeting was held on Tuesday 23 September at the Shri Ravidass Bhawan. The speaker was Gareth Davies (ex SACRE member) talking on The Role of Faith in Birmingham Schools.

Birmingham Branch of The Council of Christians and Jews : Had an exhilarating session on Ezekiel, his life times and prophecy/poetry. A vigorous and illuminating discussion took place involving the speaker Dr. Baron Mendes da Costa and the numerous Catholic participants including Revv. Patrick Mileham and, Jeremy Howard , Leo Nation and Bill Ozanne. Ezekiel was portrayed as one of the more optimistic of the prophets, foreseeing re-building and regeneration though sent to admonish Israel and explain the reasons for its downfall. His book has a clearer structure than other prophets that may be connected to his priestly training and action in the temples, the source of much of his almost hallucinatory imagery. He is not the most popular in Jewish liturgy, unlike Catholic liturgy where a whole season of year II is devoted to readings from him. His prophecy of the raising of the dry bones is read at Yom Kippur and is inscribed at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem. The discussion became engrossed in the teaching about Original Sin (which is not generally part of Jewish thinking in regard to good and evil) Grace and the nature of belief.

The annual Jewish/Christian Study Day at Singers Hill Synagogue took place on Wednesday July 16th on the theme of EXILE, Principal speaker was Mehri Niknam MBE (Executive Director, Joseph Interfaith Foundation). Discussion developed around the handling of harsh and even intolerant texts from scripture. It was pointed out that a speaker at a previous meeting had suggested that these could be taken (a) literally. (b) as applying to a particular time (c) to be understood in a particular textual context (d) were metaphorical (e)could be simply avoided.

Muslim Relations: The Central mosque has a new Chairman: Mr, Muhammad Sarwar. He replaces the recently deceased Dr. Mohammed Naseem. Mr. Abdul Rashid, treasurer of the Central Mosque, who has been a great friend of interreligious dialogue is to retire from ill health. He will be missed.

Birmingham SACRE: Bill Ozanne has been delegated by the Archdiocese to join the Birmingham Sacre with Fr, Edwin Cownley. The recent meeting was much concerned with the continuing problems of OFSTED’s criticism of the 5 schools related to the so called Trojan Horse letter. Birmingham City Council has been heavily criticized for its role, and the Standing Advisory Committee has a large part to play in the City Council’s response. The whole affair has to be seen in the light of the vast network, almost spider’s web of activity and funding associated with the Government’s Prevention of Terrorism strategy.

The Birmingham City Round Table:  The Round Table organised on June 9th a memorial event for the Srebrenica massacre of June 1995. This is intended to become an annual event.

Speakers included: Councillor James McKay, Cabinet Member for Social Cohesion, Equalities and Community Safety , Birmingham Lord Mayor, Councillor Shafique Shah, Lord Lieutenant Paul Sabapathy, CBE Councillor Muhammad Afzal, Secretary of Birmingham Central Mosque Messages by Dr Fatima Dautbašić-Klempić on behalf of the Mothers of Srebrenica who lost husbands, sons and brothers in the genocide .Dr Aidan Stonehouse, Outreach Manager Remembering Srebrenica and a final speech and prayer by Bhai Sahib Mohinder Singh, Chairman of Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha. [ See Appendix 2 for BSJ’s final prayer]. It was a v eryh moving event for its focus on personal experiences of persecution and alienation.

Faith Encounter Project:   Has begun a further programme of training for Faith guides. Ruth Tetlow the Director has now managed to overcome funding problems and is now able to continue with this subsidized course. Applicants for training are welcome:

Faith Encounter Programme has produced a DVD of one hour, showing faith guides giving an introductions and visit to their place of worship, They will be a valuable resource for people teaching about other faiths, or parishes who wish to develop an understanding of interreligious dialogue. They are currently priced at £10..00 each and available from: Ruth  Tetlow, 26 Sovereign Way, Moseley, Birmingham B13 8AT.;. One drawback for Catholic community is that Christianity is represented by a very good explanation of Christian basic belief during a tour of the church of England St. .Philips Cathedral in Birmingham during which Mass is celebrated by the Dean, Canon Catherine  Ogle.

Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery exhibition: The Museum of World Religions (MWR), in conjunction with Nishkam, has been granted an exhibition at Birmingham Museum & art Gallery, Birmingham City Centre. The exhibition was launched in October 2014 and ends in December 2014. It seeks to inform on how different faith communities pray. It uses photographs, film, sounds and displays to explore: Types of prayer Tools/instruments of prayer, Sounds of prayer

Bill Ozanne worked with Dr. Marius Felderhof and Kiran Kaur on the planning for this exhibition.

Near neighbours: The Catalyst programme involving young adults is still working on a new programme. Our Catholic representative was Melissa Grennan; the project is looking for new Catholic members. It designs interactive projects for people of faith ages 18-35.

Moseley Interfaith Group: Held a meeting to hear a well researched paper given by Brian Taylor, their Orthodox Jewish member on the history and action of Israel in Gaza. It presented Israel in a very positive light. [a copy can be had by e-mail from

[email protected] ]


Bill Ozanne




One of the world’s largest forms of human rights violation is the denial of religious freedom. The Pew Forum reported in 2010 that nearly 75% of the world’s population lives in countries with high restrictions on religious freedom. May the cyber world and his digital media help enjoying and improving religious freedom?

The response of this speech is “yes”, but actually the face-to-face is still more important. Different motivations are highlighted and explained according to the study of the Pope Francis ministry throughout cyber technologies and the authors’ experience in his pastoral work with immigrants and Spanish gypsies.

Religious freedom is talked about more than it is protected. At the base is the “inter-life”, which includes the “inter-faith”. Let us dialogue: that means to be secure that the other has something good to say, to accept his point of view, his proposals. To dialogue doesn’t mean to renounce your own ideas and traditions, but to pretend to impose them as unique and absolute”.


APPENDIX 2 final prayer by Bhai Sahib Bhai Mohinder Singh


I share with you some sacred passages for us to contemplate and reflect on:

Recognise the entire human race as one family. The Transcendent is

known by different names. Karta (the Creator) and Karim (the

Merciful) is one and the same; so too is Razak (the Sustainer) and

Rahim (the Compassionate).

Sri Dasam Granth, attributed to Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth Sikh Guru


The whole world is suffering, engulfed in the flames of many

destructive forces. We plead to you God – through Your mercy

please protect and save us. No matter which door or sanctuary or

place of worship we come from, take us into Your refuge and shelter

and rescue us.


Sri Guru Granth Sahib, p. 853, Guru Amar Das, the third Sikh Guru

Where there is spiritual wisdom there is righteousness and Dharam;

where there is falsehood there is sin; where there is greed there is

death; and where there is forgiveness there is God Himself.

Sri Guru Granth Sahib, p. 1372, Bhagat Kabir, renowned saint of India

And finally,


Oh Merciful God make us choose

Reconciliation against Retaliation

Forgiveness against Revenge

Responsibility against Rights

Love against Hate.

Guide us to have Peace at our individual and collective levels.

May God Bless us all.



Vatican letter to Hindus : shortened;

“May the Transcendent Light illumine your hearts, homes and communities, and may all your celebrations deepen the sense of belonging to one another in your families and neighbourhoods, and so further harmony and happiness, peace and prosperity.” It goes on to reflect on increasing discrimination, violence and exclusion throughout the world, and how ‘nurturing a culture of inclusion’ can be rightly seen as one of the most genuine aspirations of people everywhere. Globalisation has created new frontiers and provided, better educational and healthcare facilities. awareness of democracy and social justice in the world, due to of communication and transportation. It can also be said, however, that globalization has not achieved its primary objective of integrating local peoples into the global community. but contributed significantly to many peoples losing their sociocultural, economic and political identities.

It has had a negative impact on religious communities throughout the world since they are intimately related to surrounding cultures, contributing to the fragmentation of society and to an increase in relativism and syncretism in religious matters,  and a privatization of religion. Religious fundamentalism and ethnic, tribal and sectarian violence in different parts of the world today are largely manifestations of the discontent, uncertainty and insecurity among peoples, particularly the poor and marginalized who have been excluded from the benefits of globalization. Widespread materialism and consumerism, moreover, have made people more self-absorbed, power-hungry and indifferent to the rights, needs and sufferings of others. This,in the words of Pope Francis, has led to a “‘globalization of indifference’ which makes us slowly inured to the suffering of others and closed in on ourselves” (Message for the World Day of Peace, 2014).  A ‘culture of exclusion’ (cf. Pope Francis, Address to the Apostolic Movement of the Blind and the Little Mission for the Deaf and Mute, 29 March 2014) in which the poor, marginalized and vulnerable are denied their rights, as well as the opportunities and resources that are available to other members of society. They are treated as insignificant, dispensable, burdensome, unnecessary, to be used and even discarded like objects. In various ways, the exploitation of children and women, the neglect of the elderly, sick, disabled, migrants and refugees, and the persecution of minorities are sure indicators of this culture of exclusion.

Nurturing a culture of inclusion thus becomes a common call and a shared responsibility, which must be urgently undertaken. involving those who care for the health and survival of the human family here on earth  amidst, and in spite of, the forces that perpetuate the culture of exclusion. 7. As people grounded in our own respective religious traditions and with shared convictions, may we, Hindus and Christians, join together with followers of other religions and with people of good will to foster a culture of inclusion for a just and peaceful society.



Barbara McGowan Report:

There was a meeting between Iqra and All Souls parish, Coventry Saturday (11 Oct) on ‘Prayer and Spirituality’ at the Iqra learning Centre. We extended the invitation to our local fellow  ecumenical neighbours in CTEC; two Baptists and a Methodist came along with us.

We attended Muslim mid-day prayer at 1.30 and the meeting followed at 1.45.

Fr Michael Brandon based his talk on 1 Cor:13; Gaudium et Spes (17 – freedom) and Romans 8:15-17; 26 (the Spirit’s influence in our prayer; belief in the Trinity). He spoke about how Christians have failed in the past and continue to fail to live up to what is required of us as Christians, in a spectacular way at times (Constantine, Battle of the Milvian Bridge, 312/ the Crusades/ the Inquisition etc). Spoke of monasticism, ascetics, martyrs. Our ultimate prayer is the Eucharist.

The Imam spoke of sprituality as inseparable from everyday existence; prayer 5 times a day, conversing with a compassionate and merciful God. Islam is a religion of love and peace, not promoted as such in the media at the moment. Their community deplore what is happening at the moment; it is not in accord with the Islamic creed. Islam cannot be forced on anyone, it utterly condemns war. If one person is killed, the whole of humanity is deeply wounded. Islam is not spread by the sword but by hearts and minds. They live under the guidance of God.

At the end of the meeting one of the Muslim community suggested that at our next meeting there should be a longer period devoted to questions and answers as both communities are suffering in the current political climate.

The next meeting is scheduled for January.



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