*** DEBUG START ***
*** DEBUG END ***

Hannah Rich: Solidarity between faiths matters more than ever

by
20 October 2023

Blending faith and politics is fraught, but worth the effort, says Hannah Rich

Alamy

Sadiq Khan, at the Labour Party conference in Liverpool, on 9 October

Sadiq Khan, at the Labour Party conference in Liverpool, on 9 October

IN A week full of policy pronouncements, speeches, and a whirlwind of fringe events, the memory of this year’s Labour Party Conference which will stay with me the longest happened away from the glitter and lights of the main stage.

On Monday morning of last week, I found myself having breakfast alongside the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, in a synagogue a stone’s throw from the conference centre in Liverpool. It was an interfaith event, organised by the Jewish Labour Movement, together with Nisa-Nashim, a national network that brings together Jewish and Muslim women to inspire and lead social change.

It had long been in the conference diary, but it took on a more sombre tone, given the violence that had unfolded in Israel and Gaza during the preceding 48 hours. We shared with each other bagels, tears, solidarity, and promises of prayer from our different religious traditions.

For many members of the Jewish community in attendance, it was their first chance to gather since the weekend’s events in Israel. For those of us of other faiths, it was an opportunity to stand with our brothers and sisters in their grief and disbelief at what was happening in the Middle East.

We listened to the words of the 18th-century Rabbi Nachman of Bratzlav, a prayer for “an ever-increasing peace among all peoples . . . that there may be no more hatred, rancour, strife, or conquest between one human being and another”. The Mayor echoed this prayer, drawing on similar words from the canons of his own Muslim faith.

In the face of war, loss, and our own felt helplessness, there was hope — if not optimism — to be found in being in a space of such deep solidarity.

The next day, I sat on a panel discussing freedom of religion or belief globally, with colleagues from humanist, Muslim, and Jewish groups in the party. Again, we came together from different traditions and beliefs, besides differing positions in the “broad Church” of the Labour Party. Again, the conversation was underpinned by a sense of solidarity and a commitment to disagreeing well with one another, without any pretence that that is always easy.

The blending of faith and politics is often fraught; the blending of interfaith dialogue with political discourse is even more so. I am not so rose-tinted in my view as to think that we get it right all the time, in my community, this country, or my own political party.

Years ago, at about the time of the London Bridge terrorist attack, I heard Mr Khan open a campaign speech with a light-hearted remark about how he was fasting for Ramadan. Then, as last week, I felt a sense of pride to be in a community in which he was able to bring his faith authentically and naturally to the table.

Amid the many promises of political change and a future government, I left Liverpool last week with a determination to practise the words of Rabbi Nachman’s centuries-old prayer: “Let there be only love and a great peace among us. . . So that we may speak — one to the other.”

Hannah Rich is director of Christians on the Left.

Paul Vallely is away.

Browse Church and Charity jobs on the Church Times jobsite

Letters to the editor

Letters for publication should be sent to letters@churchtimes.co.uk.

Letters should be exclusive to the Church Times, and include a full postal address. Your name and address will appear below your letter unless requested otherwise.

Forthcoming Events

Green Church Awards

Awards Ceremony: 6 September 2024

Read more details about the awards

 

Festival of Preaching

15-17 September 2024

The festival moves to Cambridge along with a sparkling selection of expert speakers

tickets available

 

SAVE THE DATE

Festival of Faith and Literature

28 February - 2 March 2025

The festival programme is soon to be announced sign up to our newsletter to stay informed about all festival news.

Festival website

 

ViSIt our Events page for upcoming and past events 

The Church Times Archive

Read reports from issues stretching back to 1863, search for your parish or see if any of the clergy you know get a mention.

FREE for Church Times subscribers.

Explore the archive

Welcome to the Church Times

 

To explore the Church Times website fully, please sign in or subscribe.

Non-subscribers can read four articles for free each month. (You will need to register.)