Being Human in Faith: Exploring Hopes & Fears

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On Thursday evening November 24, we participated in an innovative theatre workshop to explore how families and communities respond to religious conversion. The event was part of the ‘Being Human’ festival which is a yearly “national forum for public engagement with humanities research. The festival highlights the ways in which the humanities can inspire and enrich our everyday lives, help us to understand ourselves, our relationships with others, and the challenges we face in a changing world.”

The theme for the 2016 festival was ‘Hope & Fear’. Amidst the 300+ events organised by over 70 universities and research organisations in 36 towns and cities across the UK, came the invitation to participate in the ‘Transformations in Faith: Exploring Hopes and Fears’ theatre workshop in Edinburgh.

20161124_190147The theatre workshop had two main parts to it. In the first session, the participants went through a series of exercises where they ‘expressed’ their thoughts, feelings and emotions through actual ‘body language’ and performance. The interesting rationale behind this approach was that: using words in ordinary speech to express how we feel does not always reflect how we actually feel. The exercises in the first session therefore prepared us for the second part where we actually began addressing situations involving the theme of religious conversion.

Why did we participate? Well, to learn of course. We live in a world of complex challenges, and religious conversion is certainly something that we as an Islamic institution frequently encounter. Whilst some convert to Islam, we see others leave the religion. We therefore went along to understand ‘being human’ when faith and spirituality cross religious borders. We learnt many things, like: the importance of listening to what others have to say and “disagreeing with respect” – someone may well have full conviction in one path, but they need to recognise that others may well have theirs.

20161124_202015The eye-opening workshop was concluded by a ‘themed meal’ provided by the World Kitchen Team. The participants discussed food choice, religious identity and conversion to end the rich and meaningful event where a mix of people from all faiths and none came to learn from each other and discuss the challenging issues of religion, identity and faith.

Serving a City of Sanctuary & Compassion: The Edinburgh 2050 City Vision

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Edinburgh Central Mosque participated in two ground breaking events this week inspiring it to express its new vision as a mosque actively and creatively serving a “City of Sanctuary & Compassion.”

The problems we face as a global humanity cannot be solved at the same level of thinking which created them in the first place. We recognise the need for initiative, creativity and hybridity in bringing solutions to the table.

“In 2016, we are a successful city where population is growing … and whose strong economy and quality of life is recognised across the world. With this vibrancy and growth come many challenges …  increased inequality … pressure on our city infrastructure and environment, we know that the city needs to adapt and change again … This is why the city is embarking on a project to develop a vision for 2050. Developing this vision will involve residents of all ages, businesses and groups from all sectors coming together to agree the type of city we all want Edinburgh to be.” The City of Edinburgh Council.

The first of the two events occurred at the beginning of the 2016 Scottish Interfaith Week on Tuesday 15th November. The occasion was a ‘Religious Leaders and Faith Representatives meeting’ at Edinburgh City Chambers with the aim of exploring the potential proposal of Edinburgh becoming a ‘Compassionate City’ as its 2050 vision. It included a presentation by Professor John Gillies ‘Edinburgh as a compassionate city; where faith and science come together’. Representatives of faith communities shared their stories of fruitful engagement with their neighbours of other faiths and non-faith and how that strengthened compassionate community engagement. The meeting gave useful insights into identifying ways in which the faith communities and their leaders could contribute to Edinburgh realising its 2050 vision.

The second event was ‘Mapping Sanctuary in Edinburgh’ supported by: The City of Edinburgh Council and City of Sanctuary Edinburgh on Saturday 19th November. The occasion was a “sharing of information, learning about what is happening and exploring ideas for working together to welcome refugees and asylum seekers in Edinburgh.” Networking and exploring what’s on the ground were key to the event. Participants from various organisations and communities ‘mapped’ all the places, services and initiatives within the various parts of the city that welcome and support refugees and asylum seekers – places where one could go to seek help and feel part of the community.

20161119_1144471 Some of the themes which emerged from the ‘mapping’ and discussions included: Befriending, Mental Health, Health & Wellbeing, Housing, Language and making Information available, Work & Employment, Enabling healthy diversity, Food, Children & Young people, Sport, Leisure & Recreation.

As a community, we thought: instead of waiting for 2050 to come, why not embrace the vision right now? How are we going to be a mosque serving a City of Sanctuary & Compassion? We aspire to do that through a dedicated ethos of serving Edinburgh through our space, our facilities, in our outreach activities and especially through knowing and understanding each other.

Collecting Our History: The Tapestry of Heritage Project

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 “Let those present among you inform the absent” words uttered by our Prophet Muhammad – prayers and peace be upon him – teaching this nation the importance of handing down history across the generations. The Muslim population of Edinburgh is very much alive in this welcoming city. We wish to collect some of its important history especially in relation to the building of the city’s central mosque. We are therefore glad to cooperate with the ‘Tapestry of Heritage’ project in recruiting volunteers and research interns.

We would like to invite those interested in being a part of making history to a meeting at Edinburgh Central Mosque on Sunday 9th of October at 1.45pm (after dhuhr) about this exciting project.

The Tapestry of Heritage project is being co-ordinated by Carrie Alderton at the Edinburgh Inter-Faith Association and aims to investigate the history of different religions or faith communities in Edinburgh with an overall aim to show how religious communities, especially minority religious communities, play a vital role in the current social fabric of Edinburgh and its history.

As a part of this initiative, Edinburgh Central Mosque is specifically looking to compile the history of the Mosque and we are looking for research interns to gather this information in tandem with the Tapestry of Heritage project.

Carrie Alderton and Yahya Barry, the Imam of ECM will be present at the meeting to discuss it in more detail. We wish to encourage members of the community from all backgrounds and walks of life to attend – whether interested specifically in researching the history of Edinburgh Central Mosque or more generally in researching the history of the Edinbugh Muslim community.