It is only when people of different faiths, or of no faith, and from different backgrounds work together that we can truly overcome the prejudices arising from not knowing the “other”
By Harris Bokhari
There has never been a more important time to actively understand the “other” – to realise that we have to come together as a country of different communities to move forward together post-Brexit. One of many things the Brexit vote did was show us the clear divides we have in our country, in part fuelled by not knowing those who we perceived as different to us. Alarmingly, the recent increase of hate crime is a clear indicator that tensions are rising.
In 2015, I was honoured to be the only UK-born Muslim to attend a four-day residential course which brought together some of the leading experts in faith communities from across the globe, to discuss ways we would could tackle the growing threat of extremism in faith. There were contributions from some of the leading national and international faith leaders, including a video contribution from HRH The Prince of Wales.
Aside from this being a unique opportunity for us to spend time on spiritual reflection, it also gave us a chance to hear about the personal journey of other people. These journeys haven’t been easy and have involved questioning our own conscious and unconscious prejudices. For me that meant owning my own mistakes of the past and making sure I took positive steps to make sure that I never repeat them.
Some of the most powerful testimonies we heard were from minority Christians who were being persecuted in Muslim majority countries. One Christian leader said he had to teach his congregation the Shahada – the declaration of faith for Muslims – to stop them being killed by local extremists. We see far too regularly how often minority faith communities are being persecuted for their beliefs – such as Christians, Yazidis and Ahmadiyya community in Muslim majority communities – often resulting in exile. This is one reason why it is so important that Asia Bibi, the Pakistani Christian who spent eight years on death row for blasphemy, is given asylum in the UK.