Talk and understanding

10 January 2007

by Margaret Duggan

FOR THE tenth year running, Christians and Muslims have celebrated the birth of Jesus together in Portsmouth Cathedral. Just before Christmas, about 80 people of all ages came to the joint celebration, about equal numbers from the two faiths, says Canon Nick Ralph.

The Dean, the Very Revd David Brindley, led them all on a tour of the cathedral, talking about the building, its history and meaning, and the saints depicted there. The great advantage of this, Canon Ralph told me, was that people had a chance for informal conversation as they walked round. “It was genuine engagement.”

The Interfaith Co-ordinator for Portsmouth, Taki Jaffer who tells me he is the first Muslim to be on the cathedral payroll, said it was a most exciting evening, during which everybody talked to each other, and shared a meal afterwards. That was possible because all the Muslims brought halal food, and the Christians brought vegetarian dishes, “so everybody could eat something of everything together.”

Most of the Muslims were from Mr Jaffer’s own mosque, the Wessex Jamaat Mosque in Wickham, where the congregation is from many ethnic backgrounds. “Our faiths are from the same source and we have so much in common,” he told me.

His daughter, Zahra Jaffer (right), is pictured with her cousins Mariam and Zainab Rahim, sitting at the foot of the bishop’s chair in the cathedral as they listened to the Dean.

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