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Imams to tea

28 February 2014

FIVE imams were recently invited to Southwell Minster for tea and a guided tour of the cathedral. The idea had come from Dr Musharraf Hussain al-Azhari, who is CEO and Chief Imam of the Karimia Institute, in Nottingham, which has been serving the community for the past 24 years with a radio station, nurseries, youth clubs, a magazine, and a burial society.

He wrote to the Bishop of Sherwood, the Rt Revd Tony Porter, asking to meet the Bishop and see the minster, so that the imams could learn something of the Anglican church hierarchy, its liturgy, and its church administration, as part of their interfaith development.

The minster staff responded with enthusiasm, and the director of the Karimia Institute, Asif Ali, arrived with four other imams - two of whom had recently left Syria because of the civil war. They were welcomed by Bishop Porter, who is an active member of the interfaith meetings for faith leaders in the Nottingham area, and by the Precentor, Canon Jacqui Jones.

The imams were shown round the minster, and much was explained to them. Speaking on behalf of the visitors, Mr Ali, who is an RE teacher with a theology degree, said that it was important to understand how other religious communities operated.

"We are having a short tour, looking at the architecture, religious books, the hierarchy, and structure of the Church," he said. "The Anglican Church has been established for 600 to 700 years; Muslims have only been here 60 to 70 years; so we can look at how we might grow, and the difficult times we might face. . . There is a huge amount of similarities between the two faiths, and we want to follow good practice."

After the tour, they all had a cup of tea together in the vestry, and Bishop Porter said that he and Dr Hussain would continue to work together to serve the community.

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