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Inter-faith peace by a caring community

30 March 2013 Last updated at 09:05 GMT

Christian Church opens doors to Muslims

By Divya Talwar BBC Asian Network
St                                      John's Episcopal Church has opened                                      its doors to Muslims for Friday                                      prayers
St John's Episcopal Church has opened its doors to Muslims for Friday prayers

On a bitterly cold and snowing afternoon in Aberdeen, the doors of St John's Episcopal Church are open to hundreds of Muslim worshippers, arriving for daily prayers.

The familiar sounds of Christian hymns have been replaced with Islamic prayer in the chapel this Friday lunchtime and the church priest with the imam from the neighbouring mosque.

Muslims from the Syed Shah Mustafa Jame Masjid mosque next door share this church with Christian worshippers up to five times a day.

Church leaders believe this may be the only place in the country where Christian and Muslim worshippers pray side by side.

The rector at St John's has opened his doors to Muslims because there was not enough space for them to pray in their own mosque and many were forced to worship outside on the street.

The Reverend Isaac Poobalan, who grew up in Southern India surrounded by Islam, said he would not have been true to his faith if he did not help his neighbours.


Reverend Isaac Poobalan grew up                                      in Southern India surrounded by                                      Islam
Reverend Isaac Poobalan grew up in Southern India surrounded by Islam

"It was a very cold day, like today, and when I walked past the mosque I saw dozens of male worshippers praying outside, on the streets, right near the church.

''Their hands and feet were bare and you could see their breath in the freezing cold.
''Jesus taught his disciples to love your neighbour as yourself and this is something I cannot just preach to my congregation, I had to put it into practice."
Reverend Poobalan adds: ''I felt very distressed when I saw my neighbours praying out in the cold and I knew I needed to do something to help.''
''I know I cannot solve the world's problems, but when there is a problem I can solve, I will.''

The mosque is next door to the                                      church
The mosque is next door to the church

Reverend Poobalan asked his congregation for permission to open the church doors to Muslims.

At first, Muslims were reluctant to accept the invite, but they have now settled in well into their new home.
Worshipper Mozhid Sufiyan said: ''We are so grateful to the church for giving us a space for our prayers.

"It was very difficult, especially for the elderly, to pray outside on the floor.
''Father Poobalan has been very kind to us all by inviting us into his church.'
''He has respected all of our beliefs and made us feel comfortable."
There has been some opposition to the arrangement, with Reverend Poobalan facing abuse by online trolls on social networking sites.


The Bishop of Aberdeen said it                                      couild be a lesson for the rest of                                      the world
The Bishop of Aberdeen said it could be a lesson for the rest of the world

Christians believe Jesus is the son of God, while Muslims regard him as a prophet.

But despite these differences, there does not seem to be any tension in St John's Church, with both faiths having learnt to respect each other.

Peter, a member of the church congregation, said: "Any opposition is from people who do not belong to the church and do not understand the arrangement we have here.
"We do not have any issues with sharing our building.
''My faith says if you see anyone out in the cold, you invite them in, so I don't have any problem with it all."

Muslims and Christian worshippers at St John's Church hope their special relationship could serve as a model for the rest of the country.

The Episcopal Bishop of Aberdeen and Orkney, Dr Robert Gillies, said the arrangement at St John's could serve as a lesson for the rest of the world.
''What we are doing here, is something local that has global significance,'' he said.
''We have demonstrated that Christians and Muslims do not have to agree with one another.

''But they can learn to respect each other's different beliefs and actually come to get along and even like one another."


 Comments


A very good article for us in Malaysia where there is so much racial and religious intolerance.Something which we should all reflect and try to adopt such a tolerant attitude towards others.Our actions may be small but they will have far reaching consequences as people will come to know about us.
The people of St.John's church have demonstrated that Christians and Muslims do not have to agree with one another to live in peace.What it needed is an open mind to agree to disagree on our differences.
Let us propagate peace by adopting mutual respect and tolerance for one another by our small acts of love and care in our small environment as that is what every religion teaches.We will never know that we may be igniting the fire of peace that could spread far and wide.
 
"All religions show the right way to God,doesn't matter what name we choose to call Him"

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