Sunday morning and I wasn’t in church. Instead I was asked to share in a seminar at the Jain Centre in North London, along with our Jain hosts, local dignitaries and leaders of various faith communities, including Humanists.
The topic was ‘Respect for Life’. This is of course a key principle of Jainism, but each faith presented clear views on the sanctity and value of life – more and more relevant today. The workshop on applying this to our environmental crisis was lively, both younger and older speaking freely.
This was one of hundreds of similar events to mark ‘Inter Faith Week’. It’s sponsored by the Government, so was it just an exercise to bring the faith communities into a more manageable grouping? What did I gain from it?
It’s always valuable to meet people of other backgrounds, in a spirit of mutual respect, and to learn how much we have in common. There are lots of things we can and should do together.
That doesn’t mean that our faiths are identical. A Jain engineer pointed out that each fits together with its own integrity, like the parts in different makes of car. They can’t simply be interchanged without reference to the whole.
Does that mean we are best to stay within our own structures, where we were brought up? What about the pressure to search for truth, to find God, perhaps beyond what we know already?
My conversation with the engineer brought out the most valuable thing for me. As we talked we built a relationship of trust and understanding. That helped us to discover the actual differences in what we believe. Even more important, it pointed us to the God whom we seek and who seeks us, to enter into relationship.
By Robin Thomson