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Christian women join Muslims to form network

28 June 2013

CHRISTIAN MUSLIM FORUM

Celebrating; Anjum Anwar (left), a trustee of the Christian Muslim Forum, and Raheema Caratella, one of its outreach workers, at the launch of the new network in Leicester on Monday

Celebrating; Anjum Anwar (left), a trustee of the Christian Muslim Forum, and Raheema Caratella, one of its outreach workers, at the launch of the n...

WHEN planning the publicity for the launch of the Muslim-Christian Women's Network for Leicester, the organisers were advised to mention something about terrorism in Woolwich or the British National Party. Otherwise, they were told, "Why would anyone want to take notice of a bunch of women getting together?"

In fact, the BBC, among others, recognised the value of a positive story of faith and cohesion. Launched at the central mosque in Leicester, the network has been created to connect women's groups in the city. It was born out of the work of Raheema Caratella, an outreach worker for the Christian Muslim Forum, who has mapped women's groups in the city, creating a directory of them. The Revd Bonnie Evans-Hills, the Bishop of Leicester's acting interfaith adviser, paid tribute to her work at the launch.

"We have discovered so many women in this city of Leicester, women of deeply held faith and courage, who work so hard - women who have suffered domestic violence, or forced marriage, or rape; women who have been denied an education, who are not allowed to make friends or socialise outside of their homes, women who have no voice, no space in their place or worship," Mrs Evans-Hills said. "These women come from every culture, from every background, from every faith. . . Their work goes largely unnoticed."

The conference heard from Sumaiya Mulla and Rumena Choudhury, workers for the STR!VE project, which raises awareness on issues such as forced marriage, domestic abuse, and "honour-related" violence. The co-chair of the forum, Shaykh Ibrahim Mogra, also spoke at the launch.

Anjum Anwar, the dialogue-development officer at Blackburn Cathedral and a trustee of the forum, also attended the event. "As with most major organisations, the Christian-Muslim Forum has been London-centric," she said on Tuesday. "We wanted to bring the work of the forum to grassroots communities in the North West and the Midlands. . . We hope that the network could be a blueprint for other areas.

"Women have a lot to contribute, and, unfortunately, what women tend to do is get on with the work, and very rarely talk about and celebrate the work."

The forum and the new network would engage with issues about the part played by women in the Church and in mosques, she said, but intra-faith discussions must happen first. "We must be very clear that intra-dialogue needs to take place first within organisations and the religious context.

"That discussion has already started. We had a conference here about the role of the mosque in the 21st century, and we had a woman scholar who came and spoke. . . It is about starting conversations separately then we bring them together."

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