The children at the Suffah school participated fully in the assembly and afterwards I found myself having tea with the headmaster and the mosque’s Imam. They were very warm in their welcome and we spoke openly and respectfully about our faith traditions, our similarities and our differences. The headmaster expressed his heartfelt pain at what had occurred in Paris and described his personal frustration at how the Muslim community is understandably scrutinised at times like this.
On Tuesday, Tom and I welcomed children from the Sikh Nishkam school on London Road. We had led their Christmas nativity assembly at the school. This time 40 kids from years 1 and 2 spent an hour inside St. John’s, played some games, listened to some music and learned about the building and our patterns of worship. The children had lots of great questions about church life and the Christian faith which kept Tom and me on our toes.
It is not inappropriate in discussion to acknowledge differences of belief and outlook. These moments of interaction with (eg) local Muslims and Sikhs in our places of worship I’m sure fosters understanding, respect, goodwill, friendship, hospitality and collaboration. Involving children means these communal goods can pass to coming generations.