COMMUNITY leaders from Pakistan have spent the past week in England, studying how Christian and Muslim groups can work together.
The group of 12, made up of imams, priests, lawyers, and police officers, was invited as part of New Horizons, a project initiated by the Bishop of Pontefract, the Rt Revd Tony Robinson, and Yaqub Masih, a Lay Canon of Wakefield Cathedral.
Wakefield diocese has developed strong links with Faisalabad, and Mr Masih travels regularly between the two countries, raising funds and promoting religious diversity. He recently delivered £17,500, raised in the diocese to help flood victims.
“This is a long-term project that is vitally important for both our countries if we are to overcome some of the misunderstandings between us,” Mr Masih said. “I look forward to a deepening understanding between the country of my birth and the country that has made me so welcome for the last 25 years.”
Bishop Robinson said: “This is an incredibly important project, which brings together Christians and Muslims across the world. It is an opportunity to show what we can do together when we are determined to work together for the good of our local communities.
“The group are determined to meet together when they return home, committed to work together for community cohesion, and plan to do some practical project in their town to provide clean drinking water.”
During the week, the group met the Foreign Office minister Alistair Burt, and dined with the Archbishop of York, Dr Sentamu, at his official residence.
They also visited a Muslim relief agency in Nottingham, met judges and magistrates in Bradford, toured police centres in Bradford and Wakefield, and discussed interfaith issues with council and faith leaders in West Yorkshire.
One member of the delegation, Mohammed Quresh, a police inspector, said: “I am keen to learn how the police in England deal with disputes between different sections of the community. I hope to take back some new ways to train my fellow officers.”
One of the imams in the party, Hafiz Abdul Hayee, said: “Before the attacks on Christians in 2009, I had never been into a Christian church. Since then, we have developed better relations between our communities.
“We realise that we need to do more together. I am enjoying this visit, and learning from the good relations between Christians and Muslims in England.”