Posts Tagged ‘faith’

Paulo Coelho on Luck, Coincidence and Faith

July 29, 2013

Paulo Coelho talking about luck, coincidence and faith.

Thoughts are taken from The Alchemist.

Erasing Hell

March 1, 2012

God has the right to do whatever He pleases. — Psalms 115:3

If we dig deep and find the caring, loving part God has placed within us, the angels cannot be restrained from actively being our associates. — Elaine Street

Anyone who knows God cannot describe him. Anyone who can describe God does not know him. — Paulo Coelho

Erasing Hell may not be brimming with hatred but is certainly lacking in grace.

Francis Chan plays the proof text game.

One can prove almost anything playing the proof text game.

Fancy engaging in a little genocide? There are Biblical texts you can quote. Slaughter all men, women and children. Spare not even the women and children.

The Lord´s Army in Uganda use biblical texts to justify their atrocities. As do suicide bombers, Islamist fundamentalists use The Koran.

Yes, God is all powerful. He could destroy the earth tomorrow in the blink of an eye, but could is not the same as would.

We have a loving God, a God who cares. Why would such a God condemn to an eternity in Hell for sins committed in a finite lifetime?

But Francis Chan commits to Hell, not for sins committed, but for not believing what he says we must believe.

We have not free will if we must believe what we are told to believe, and will be punished if we do not comply

Desmond Tutu addresses this very well in Tutu: A Portrait.

Does God say to the Dalia Lama, yes I recognise you are a Holy Man, but because you chose a different path, I will condemn you to an eternity in Hell?

At a St Joseph’s Day party at a medieval Venetian castle, Paulo Coelho told of dying at birth, of being strangled by his umbilical cord. His mother prayed. She promised she would mark St Joseph’s Day as thanks. She never kept her promise. God did not punish her. He recognised the frailties of human beings. Paulo Coelho now keeps his mother’s failed promise. He celebrates St Joseph’s Day with his friends, and has done so for the last 25 years.

In, I think, The Valkyries, an encounter with angels, Paulo Coelho speaks of the angel with a flaming sword guarding the entrance to heaven. The angel no longer guards the gate. The way is open to all. There are many paths. No one person has the right to say theirs is the right path. There are those bigots who have the arrogance to claim theirs is the one and only, the true path.

As Ron Bell says in Love Wins, not all would wish to enter heaven as they would have to change. Would the racist wish to sit with peopple of all races and colours? Would the bigot wish to sit with those of other faiths?

When asked, Master how do we enter heaven? Jesus gave as many different answers as those who asked.

In the Koran, we learn that to enter heaven is to recognise the one true God and to do good.

In The Shack we learn God is not a God of wrath.

Francis Chan is not though content to play the proof text game. He performs mental gymastics to claim words mean other than what they mean.

Erasing Hell is an evil book. It is like those odious people who stop you in the street and tell you if you do not believe what we believe you will suffer eternal damnation. They of course are always counted with the chosen few.

Cut the rope

February 2, 2012

Heaven ne’er helps the man who will not help himself. — Sophocles

We all need to think about how attached we are to our own ropes? Would we trust God and let go? — Priya Sher

As the night fell heavy in the heights of the mountains a climber got lost and could not see anything. All was black and there was zero visibility. The moon and the stars were covered by the clouds. He continued climbing disorientated, but only a few feet away from the top of the mountain, suddenly he slipped and fell into the air, falling at great speed. He could only see black spots as he went down, and the terrible sensation of being sucked by gravity.

He kept falling, and in the moments of great fear, it came to his mind all the good and bad episodes of his life. He was thinking now about how close death was getting, when all of a sudden he felt the rope tied to his waist pull him very hard. His body was hanging in the air.

Only the rope was holding him and in that moment of stillness he had no other choice but to scream: “Help me God.”

All of a sudden a deep voice coming from the sky answered, “What do you want me to do?” “Save me God.” And God replied “Do you really think I can save you?” “Of course I believe You can.”

“Then cut the rope tied to your waist.”

There was a moment of silence and the man decided to hold on to the rope with all his strength. The next morning the rescue team reported that a climber was found dead and frozen, his body hanging from a rope. His hands holding tight to it. Only one foot away from the ground.

Posted by Priya Sher on her blog.

Faith Under Fire
Love Wins

Faith Under Fire

January 7, 2012
Faith Under Fire

Faith Under Fire

Don’t take care, take risks. — Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Donald Coggan

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. — Romans 8:28

There cannot be any such word as ‘can’t’ here in Iraq. We have to persevere, and we do. And in everything we see the glory of God. — Canon Andrew White

When religion goes wrong, it goes very wrong. — Archbishop William Temple

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. — 1 John 4:18

For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. — 2 Timothy 1:17

Anaesthetist, curate, parish priest, head of peace and reconciliation unit at Coventry Cathedral, Middle East peace negotiator, Vicar of Baghdad, not bad for a CV.

Some people are lucky, or so those who consider themselves unlucky bemoan, but it is not that, it is taking risks, drawing upon what life gives us.

If we look at the Life of Charles Darwin, Origin of Species did not just happen, nor was it because he happened to be at the right place at the right time (though that helped). It was because he took what life offered, he drew upon the experience gained in his earlier life.

The same is true of Canon Andrew White, he takes risks where others would hesitate, he draws upon the experience life has given him, all done with a love of God and love for those who he serves, underwritten in the faith in the One God, or G-d as he would write.

Much of my work in religious sectarianism is simply about showing love to the unlovely.

Those who commit the worst atrocities are usually those with nothing to lose.

It is easy to talk to the good guys, not so easy the bad guys, those whose hands drip with the blood of the innocents. But to make progress we have to talk to everyone.

The founder and leader of Hamas was beyond the pale. He changed from a man of violence to an advocate of peace. When he died, even Members of the Knesset attended his funeral.

At the age of ten Andrew White knew what he wanted, knew where he was heading. He wanted to be both an anaesthetist and a priest.

You cannot be both, he was told, and in any case, with your background, Pentecostal and Baptist, you cannot be a priest as they do not have them.

Needs will or looked at another way, God provides. He became both, first an anaesthetist, then an Anglican priest. Part of his theological studies were spent in Jerusalem studying Judaism. All of which has prepared him well for the work in the Middle East.

The world I occupied then is vastly different to the one I occupy now, but nevertheless I learnt some important lessons – not least the ability to react quickly in situations. When a patient goes into cardiac arrest you have to react immediately. When someone points a gun at you, you must also react immediately. If you have to think about dodging a bullet, it has already hit you. On the streets of Baghdad, my medical training has probably been of more use to me than my theological training at Cambridge.

Christianity in Iraq has a long and proud history. It is not an alien religion brought in or imposed by the West. Christian Fundamentalists who rode in on the coattails of the Americans like modern day carpet baggers did a huge amount of damage. It made Christians seem tools of the West. The Crusades are still in common memory. Conversely Iraqis were surprised to find American soldiers were Christians with crosses around their necks as they thought Christianity a Middle Eastern if not Iraqi religion.

House of Lords debates the plight of Christians in the Middle East
Crass stupidity by Christian fundamentalists leads to persecution and massacre of Christians in the Middle East
Christianity A History: The Crusades

St George’s in Baghdad was built by and for the Brits. It now serves Iraqis, all are welcome.

Those who can, have long fled Iraq. Those left are the poor and dispossessed. When all is lost, faith is all that is left.

Lord Hylton on a visit to Baghdad described St George’s as a church of the future. A church that welcomes everyone and everyone is made welcome, be they Catholic, Protestant or Orthodox, be they Christian or Muslim, where everyone is loved and shares their love. A place where angels appear. A place of peace and tranquillity in a war-torn country.

Angels? The angels first appeared in 2007, and have remained since.

Another of our ‘gains’ has been the visible presence of angels. I had read of angels in the Bible, of course, and I, and others, had regularly prayed for their protection in Iraq. But until three years ago I had never actually seen one. Towards the end of 2007, quite suddenly, we started to see angelic forms. They look very much like we’d expect angels to look – like males with wings – but they are strange figures, large and translucent. We take them very seriously.

Occasionally strange objects like wheels within wheels are seen. They only appear within St George’s, at some other churches in Iraq and at Ezekiel Tomb.

Wheels within wheels

It is not known what they are, they are very prolific. In photos they appear as blobs.

Ezekiel saw something similar (Ezekiel 1:15-21):

As I looked at the living creatures, I saw a wheel on the ground beside each creature with its four faces. This was the appearance and structure of the wheels: They sparkled like chrysolite, and all four looked alike. Each appeared to be made like a wheel intersecting a wheel. As they moved, they would go in any one of the four directions the creatures faced; the wheels did not turn about as the creatures went. Their rims were high and awesome, and all four rims were full of eyes all around.

When the living creatures moved, the wheels beside them moved; and when the living creatures rose from the ground, the wheels also rose.

Wherever the spirit would go, they would go, and the wheels would rise along with them, because the spirit of the living creatures was in the wheels.

When the creatures moved, they also moved; when the creatures stood still, they also stood still; and when the creatures rose from the ground, the wheels rose along with them, because the spirit of the living creatures was in the wheels.

St George’s used to cost $600 a year to run, it now costs $175,000 a month to run. It is not only the running cost of the church, there is an associated clinic, education, food and welfare. All of which has to be raised through fund raising and donations.

Why do people suffer, why is Iraq descending into Hell, why is Canon Andrew White afflicted with multiple sclerosis?

Sorry Sir my dear Jesus , we came to you with, black gown
The Truth as Iraq descends into Hell

God moves in mysterious ways.

I am aware that God trains and prepares us through all of life’s experiences. Sometimes He sees fit to impose on us things we do not see as ‘the best’ for our lives, but He sees the greater purpose and allows such things as so that we will do what He wants us to do oe go where He wants us to go.

It is often those who face the greatest adversity who share the greatest love. Canon Andrew White in Iraq is a good example of this.

St Paul pleaded with God to remove the thorn from his side, God responded (1 Corinthians 12:19):

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

God speaks in quiet whispers, we have to listen with care.

I often recommend to people three books, well I actually recommend far more than three books, but these three books are special because they compliment and support each other – Love Wins, The Shack, Aleph – to which I now add a fourth, Faith Under Fire, as what we read in the first three and at times seems mystical, not real, far-fetched, is an everyday occurrence in Iraq.

Aleph is a strange mystical book, it cannot be for real, we think, and yet Canon Andrew White recounts far stranger mystical happenings.

Love Wins tells of the love God has for each and everyone one of us. Canon Andrew White tells of the love in Baghdad.

In The Shack we see the mystery of the Holy Spirit, forgiveness. We see this happening in Iraq.

Faith Under Fire has been shortlisted as the Christian Book of 2012. It is open to vote on-line for your favourite book, but somewhat dumb you have to vote for a childrens book too even though you may have no views. Also badly designed website, link does not go direct to voting form.

Canon Andrew White is the vicar of St Geoge’s Church in Baghdad and President of FRRME.

Iraq
The Vicar of Baghdad
Suffer the Children

Canon Andrew White at Holy Trinity Clapham

November 24, 2011

Canon Andrew White speaking at Holy Trinity Clapham, 23 May 2010.

Canon Andrew White talking about St George’s, his church in Iraq. A church that used to be at $600 a year, one of the cheapest churches in the world to run. May 2010, it was costing $170,000 a month to run.

St George’s has an associated clinic.

At 3 o’clock in the afternoon the doctors go home. Canon Andrew White then takes over.

Strange things happen at St George’s. People are healed through prayer, even raised from the dead. Strange apartitions appear, thought to be angels.

Subjects discussed in more detail in Faith Under Fire.

Canon Andrew White at Guildford Baptist Church

Of Gods and Men

November 23, 2011
Of Gods and Men

Of Gods and Men

scene from the film

scene from the film

I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High. But ye shall die like men, and fall like one of the princes. — Psalm 82:6-7

Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from a religious conviction. — Pascal

A deeply moving French film of a group of monks living in an isolated monastery in Algeria at the height of Islamic terrorist atrocities.

What sense is there when teenage girls are killed for not wearing a veil, their bodies dumped by the roadside? This is not the Koran.

When Croations are killed working on a nearby road the monks are offered protection by the army, but this is declined by the Abbot as he will not allow weapons in the monastery, nor will he depart and abandon the poor villagers who are dependent on the monastery. They were called by God to serve.

Each monk struggles with his faith and his God. Does he leave or does he stay?

All they have to protect them is their faith.

Of Gods and Men (Des hommes et des dieux) by the French director Xavier Beauvois is based on the kidnapping and murder of monks in Algeria in 1996. Who killed them, fundamentalists or the state, and the circumstances of their death is not known.

The film has a faded appearence, not the rich colours one would normally expect. This serves to resonate with the simple and austere lifestyle of the monks. Having a new laptop and this being the first DVD I had watched, I thought maybe something wrong and downloaded two new media players.

The film captures beautifully the sounds you hear up in the mountains, in the distance a neighbour’s dog barking, a cock crowing.

Des hommes et des dieux premiered at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival where it won the Grand Prix.

Des hommes et des dieux was shot on location at an abandoned monastery in Azrou, Morocco.

The monastery in Algeria lies abandoned, a ghost monastery.

Paulo Coelho talks to Big Issue

October 18, 2011
Big Issue

Big Issue

Paulo Coelho

Paulo Coelho

Brazilian author Paulo Coelho talks to Big Issue about his work.

Inspired by Paulo Coelho’s revolutionary strategy of distributing his work freely online, here is the transcript of an interview that appears in this week’s Big Issue magazine. If you see a Big Issue vendor, please consider purchasing a copy!

Interview: Steven MacKenzie

Aleph is currently a bestseller all over the world. Is the global success of your books proof that everyone shares the same fears and dreams, and people are not as different as we sometimes think?

Questions. I think people all over the world have the same questions. I would not say fears and dreams – probably also – but when I write a book I concentrate on my personal questions.

What I realise from reading tweets and comments from social communities is that although we don’t share the same answers – and we don’t – we share the same questions.

This is something that helps a lot. I don’t feel alone as a writer. Because you always ask yourself, ‘I’m writing this for myself, but does anyone else know what I’m talking about?’ And they do.

Having brought inspiration to so many, it might surprise some readers of Aleph to discover that you were undergoing your own crisis of faith.

Faith is not a straight line. It’s like if you climb a mountain. You have your ups and downs. Faith is at the end of the day an act of faith. I need faith to believe in God. Atheists also need faith to not believe in God. Like everybody else I have my moments of doubt.

Like The Alchemist, Aleph recounts a physical journey, which is ultimately a spiritual one. Why did you have to travel across a continent to discover something inside yourself?

In 2006 I was in my comfort zone; bestselling author all over the world, looking like I had no more challenges in life. And this is not good because life is a constant challenge. People tend to stay in the comfort zone because it is safe but if you don’t accept challenges you are dead!

Everyone is stuck in a routine and reluctant to leave their comfort zone. Nobody is really living …

Let’s not generalise Steven! Many people, but not everyone, otherwise I would not have any readers! It’s a tendency we have and we have to fight against it.

Some people aren’t fighting hard enough.

Yah true. We fear to change.

Do people read your books to help them fight?

My books can act as catalysts. They can provoke a reaction in a person that is already ready for change. I don’t think my readers are reading the books trying to learn how to change. You read a book at the right moment and then you see that you have already this volcano inside of you ready to explode and the book uncaps this volcano.

I would ask why you think your books become bestsellers, but do you know the reason?

There is no reason Steve! Reasons you give for deceits. You can give one thousand reasons to justify deceit but you can never explain success.

There is no relationship between a book that is satisfying for me and successful. All my books, and this I guarantee, I put the same enthusiasm and love. Having said that, you can imagine if I thought about half a billion people [reading my books] I would be paralysed. It’s natural that we try to please everybody so we cannot think about this.

You say in Aleph that ‘writing is, above all, about discovering myself’, so in which of your books have you discovered most about yourself?

All of them. But the turning point in my life was my first book, The Pilgrimage because I started to tell everybody I was a writer.

Do you think the way that Western society is constructed, with emphasis on material possessions, that we are programmed to never find fulfilment?

Everyone asks a lot of how, they don’t ask why. They want to know how to do this, how to do that, but we should ask more why should I do this, why should I do that. It has to with consumer society. How did you become rich? How did you become a bestseller? How did you become a journalist? Just change how to why it makes a lot of difference to life.

Is the world suffering an economic crisis because people are looking for the wrong things in life?

It’s the irresponsibility of politicians. You know, I know – we live in a big lie. Everybody knows but we close our eyes back to the comfort zone and one day it explodes and everybody is affected. Mostly poor people. I’m very pessimistic about this economic crisis. I don’t think it is over.

Your books contain a lot of omens and signs. Do these exist for everyone?

If you believe in God like I do, there is this intuitive language to God. But my language is not your language, my signs are not your signs. This is a very personal language.

You should believe in your intuition. Call it whatever you want, but you know when you are taking the right decision. If you believe in God, signs, or if you don’t believe in God, well, intuition, but normally you don’t look because it contradicts your logical world.

In Aleph, you also say that instead of fighting for God, we should fight against God.

Sometimes yes.

Can you elaborate?

Fighting for God we see now. Christian fundamentalism, Islamic fundamentalism… They give their lives because the message is a powerful one: you are martyr. I’m a Catholic so I know what I’m talking about!

People start justifying their lives because they need raison d’etre – they need a reason to live. They are trying to convince themselves about their faith.

Fighting against God. It is everywhere in the New Testament, moments when the great prophets – even Jesus – fight against God. When He says, ‘God, why did you forsake me?’ on the cross.

Then you have this intense relationship with God that is not a relationship of submission. There are moments when my wife and I, or you and your friends, need to fight the good fight! Not fighting to destroy but fighting for our beliefs. And by fighting for this you learn a lot.

However, if you accept everything, if you do not ask why or how, you are not living, just obeying a set of rules. Like a lamb.

Your books are banned in some countries such as Iran. Why would they be considered dangerous?

Why they are dangerous? Ask them, ask them! Any idea may be dangerous, it depends on the culture that absorbs it. I don’t think my books are dangerous, I think that writing implies the revolution of the writer itself. So I don’t know why some books are banned here or there. I don’t ask questions. I have internet, don’t worry.

You don’t worry because you can publish your stories online?

Using the Iranian example, after Aleph was published my former publisher in the UK translated the book and I put it online because I knew they will not allow it to be published in Iran. You won’t believe me but we have had 317,000 downloads of this Farsi edition.

Aleph in Farsi

You lived through dictatorship, imprisonment and torture in Brazil during the 1970s, what advice would you have for those being oppressed in Iran or Syria, or other places we don’t know about? What got you through the experience?

You remember at the beginning of our conversation about losing our faith? So, I totally lost my faith. When I was released I thought, this cannot happen to me. This is not fair, this is not just, God does not love me. It took me seven years to get rid of this experience.

It is very difficult to give advice because when you are in jail and when you are tortured you don’t exist anymore. After you are released, the prison remains in your soul. In my case, there was only one thing that healed the experience. It was time.

But I see people leaving jail today and going back to the streets and I am so proud of these people. They are so brave, they are so courageous.

The only thing I can do is join organisations like Amnesty International, become a Messenger of Peace for the United Nations, or be on the board of the Doha Center of Media Freedom, and use my influence to avoid these situations. But honestly, give advice? I can’t because my reaction was – I’m not ashamed, I know what I’ve been through – but it was not the best reaction in that circumstance.

But would you be the man you are today without that experience? Was it an important part of your spiritual journey?

I doubt, Steven. Probably my period in the mental institution was very useful for me, but I don’t think you need to be arrested and tortured to arrive where you need to arrive. This is the only thing that I would gladly erase from my past.

I see friends from that time who never recovered from this. For every three people who succeeded in overcoming their ordeal, seven are broken for life. Nothing justifies being arrested simply because you have a different idea.

How important is your Brazilian identity to your writing?

I’m very proud of my country. Your roots count a lot. [Brazilians] don’t have this wall separating emotions from the physical reality so what some cultures would think is too abstract I’m not ashamed to write.

Bill Clinton and Vladimir Putin are fans. Do you think your work has ever influenced them?

I don’t know. [Putin and I] had this photo session together. We talked for 15 minutes in front of the press and then he asked the press to leave and we spent two hours talking. Of course, I’m not going to tell you what we talked about.

Oh, secrets!?

It was a private conversation. And I thought, ‘He’s so busy [but] he’s talking to me here’. He was enjoying the conversation.

Madonna is quoted on the back of my edition of The Alchemist. Do people like her phone you up asking for advice?

No, never.

Have you met her?

I met Madonna in Cannes and I thanked her for her support but they don’t call me. I called Will Smith because every time he is interviewed he usually talks about my books. So I used Twitter and said, ‘If any of you has a possibility of finding Will Smith’s phone number please give me because I want to thank him’.

Was he happy to hear from you?

I hope he was happy. People often forget to say thank you. And I’m very thankful.

Forbes magazine named you last year as the second most influential Twitter user after Justin Bieber …

More influential than Lady Gaga and Barack Obama!

Not bad.

You don’t look for this. You may imagine when I read this I was very surprised. I’m really crossing my fingers for Justin Bieber to use his celebrity to do something. He is very young but I hope he can use his influence to do something good.

You update your blog and Twitter very regularly, do you feel like you owe your readers something, or do you feel some responsibility towards them?

No, no. There are people who go there and agree. There are people who go there and disagree! I try to use my blog to share stories from different cultures.

At this present moment, all bridges are collapsing; economic, political, social. There is only one bridge still standing: the cultural bridge.

I may not understand your political system, I may not understand your religion but I understand your story. I understand your painting. I understand your music, your dancing. There you have this bridge. It is my responsibility as a writer to do my best not to allow this bridge to collapse.

Writing is not only limited to books. We have different platforms. Use your Twitter, use Facebook, use your blog, use whatever you can use but don’t forget this responsibility.

Interview with Paulo Coelho published in this week’s Big Issue.

For once an intelligent interview!

Shock doctrine: Play up the budget deficit, use it as an excuse to hit the poor, the elderly and other vulnerable sectors in society. Homelessness is rising.

Support your local Big Issue seller. Make this a sell-out issue.

Maybe it has already sold out. Just when you want one, not a single Big Issue seller to be found on the street today.

Independent booksellers currently have Aleph on offer at £5 off, ie one third off cover price. Support your local independent bookseller.

Good news Paulo Coelho fans in independent bookshops

Paulo Coelho on Luck, Coincidence, and Faith

June 14, 2011

To mark the 20th anniversary of The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho.

What is the Role of Faith in Your Life?

June 9, 2011

‘In my Father’s house there are many mansions.’ — Jesus

A talk by five people of five different faiths on the role of faith in their life.

Nabil Mustapha (Baha’i faith): Faith is a covenant. Medicine is a noble profession, to be practised to help others, not to earn lots of money. The Baha’i faith is a choice to be exercised, a choice not to be exercised until one reaches the age of sixteen.

Mark Bishop (Buddhism): Grew up in India then UK in the Protestant and Catholic tradition. Did not become a Buddhist until late in life. Belongs to a sect that has no monks. Chant a mantra half an hour before breakfast then again in the evening.

Ray Traynor (Catholism): Taught in many countries. Chance conversations, chance meetings, led to these opportunities. Like Santiago in The Alchemist, risks were taken.

Irene Black (Judaism): One is born a Jew. It is who your parents are that determines that you are a Jew. Difficult to say what the impact of faith has on ones life. Easier to say what the lack of faith means, life would have no meaning. A close parallel between Hinduism and Judaism. Faith is seen through action. There are as many interpretations of Judaism as there are Jews.

Adel Sharif (Islam): We all have faith. Religion is man made. Prophets are messengers of God, their names in Arabic reflects their function. There is only one Koran, but many interpretations. Translations are often bad as the translator does not understand the Arabic. Muslims recognise the same God, the same prophets as Jews and Christians. The Quran is a continuation of what went before, not something new. The Quran tells believers of the One Faith to recognise Jews and Christians. Believers are seekers after truth. A scientist is a seeker after truth. Education should be for the betterment of mankind, not to earn more money. The proposed Multi-Faith Centre at Surrey University is to be renamed the Faith Centre. [also see The Role of Science and Faith in the Development of Civilisations]

Gifts: We all have gifts. We should share those gifts.

Peace: Something we should all strive for.

Prayer: God listens. Maybe we should heed the advice of St Benedict and learn to listen. Prayer is two-way communication. We have to learn to read the signs. [also see Does it matter how we pray?]

Brazilian writer Paulo Coelho describes those who say their faith is the only way as religious bigots. A devout Catholic, at his St Joseph Party in Istanbul he quoted from the Quran. He invited his guests to join him in prayer. Prayers were said in several languages by people from different religious backgrounds.

In The Shack Jesus is asked: Do you have to be a Christian to follow Him? He replies no, as even He is not a Christian. He adds, Jews, Muslims, even Buddhists, follow him.

Publicity: The meeting was very poorly publicised. Even St Joseph’s lacked a poster on the church notice board! As an absolute minimum posters and flyers in local churches, libraries, Guildford Institute.

Meeting hosted by Guildford and Godalming Interfaith Forum at St Joseph’s Church in Guildford (Eastgate Gardens). 7pm Thursday 9 June 2011.

Guildford and Godalming Interfaith Forum is an informal collective. For more information on future meetings please contact Bernard Jones (bernard.jones@btinternet.com).

Upcoming events

Midsummer Feast with Eden people – evening Tuesday 14 June 2011 – Allen House Pavilion, Guildford.

George Abbott’s Guildford. A talk by Mary Alexander at St Mary’s Church in Guildford. George Abbott was a former Archbishop of Canterbury, a contributor to the King James’ Bible. 7-30pm Tuesday evening 28 June 2011.

Creative Arts @ Costa, a celebration of music, word and the visual arts, takes place at Costa in Swan Lane in Guildford on the first Tuesday of the month (same day as the farmers market). The next event is Tuesday evening 5 July 2011. There will be no events in August and September. Swan Lane is the narrow lane that runs between the High Street and North Street at the lower end of the High Street. With Eden People, a Christian collective.

The Keystone Spirit is a regular meeting of Eden People at The Keystone Pub (3 Portsmouth Road, Guildford, GU2 4BL).

Muslims and Christians working together

February 14, 2011

The Quran does not simply preach tolerance of other religions, it also acknowledges that salvation can be achieved in all monotheist religions. Freedom of choice, especially in matters of faith, is a cornerstone of quranic values. — Benazir Bhutto

Tyrants and peddlers of hate always try to divide people, divide and conquer. But when people work together even tyrants can be defeated.

Hosni Mubarak has gone!
Egypt in revolt

In the New Year we saw a Coptic Church In Egypt attacked. Last year we saw a Catholic Church in Iraq attacked. I was with Canon Andrew White a few days after the attack and he spoke of his pain at seeing his friend the priest lying in a pool of blood.

Coptic Christians in Egypt
Dinner with Canon Andrew White

But when people work together there is hope.

Muslims guarded the Coptic Churches in Egypt. When the brothers and sisters took to the streets of Egypt, flooded into Tahrir Square, they worked together, Muslim and Christian embraced on the streets. The Christians guarded the Mosques during Friday prayers. The Christians linked arms and formed a protective circle around the Muslims when they prayed in the street.

When the Mubarak Rent-a-Thugs attacked the peaceful protesters in Tahrir Square Wednesday and Thursday two weeks ago, it was the Muslim Brotherhood who mobilised their supporters on the Friday and secured the square.

In St George’s in Baghdad before Christmas, a Shia cleric was invited by Canon Andrew White to address the congregation. The congregation is not only Christians of all denominations, it includes Muslims too.

Last month Canon Andrew White brought together Shia and Sunni religious leaders and they issued a fatwa condemning violence against Christians.

Copenhagen fatwa

The Koran teaches tolerance and that followers respect other religions. People are given a choice, all are created equal in the eyes of God. Those who try to impose or coerce are unIslamic. The Koran sanctifies those who believe in the one true God but it does not deny other religions as the route to slavation, does not say Islam is the only route. [see Reconciliation]

Surely those who believe, and those who are Jews, and the Christians, and the Sabians, whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day, and does good, they shall have their reward from their Lord, and there is no fear for them, nor shall they grieve.

What better message of hope and love can we give on St Valentine’s Day!


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