Christian Conference Focuses on Muslims in Europe

Christians from across Europe gathered in Leicester earlier in the month to engage in the issue of being Muslim within Europe.

The Joint Committee for Relations with Muslims in Europe of the Conference of European Churches and the Council of European Bishops' Conferences met from 3 to 6 May at St Philip's Centre in Leicester, a Christian centre for study and engagement in a multi-faith society.

The committee met two Muslim groups currently engaged in interfaith dialogue made up of seven men and three women from the Muslim community in Leicester and the staff from the Islamic Foundation in Markfield, Leicestershire.

Discussions with the groups focussed on the issues of being Muslim within Europe and the training of Imams and Christian clergy.

The CEC committee underlined the need to pay more attention to Muslim minorities in countries of Eastern Europe, which are not migrant populations as in Western Europe and therefore have their proper traditions and embodiment in their respective societies.

The Third European Ecumenical Assembly (EEA3) in Sibiu, Romania, from 4 to 9 September will be an important occasion to look for dialogue opportunities with religious minorities in Eastern Europe and to bring their centuries old experiences into the limelight, the CEC and CEBC said. This will be facilitated through the Assembly Forum number five on religions.

Concern was also expressed about the situation of Christians in Turkey. The committee stressed that the recent murders in Malatya of three workers in a Christian publishing house are the expression of an extreme nationalism rather than a Christian-Muslim conflict, the CEC and CEBC said.

The CEC committee called for increased protection and stronger legal security for the Christian minority in Turkey.

They also said that the training of Imams, with a view of integration of Muslims in their respective societies, should be encouraged particularly in European countries with large Muslim minorities. Muslim life in Europe needs opportunities to confront itself with the religious requirements of everyday life in western societies, the CEC and CEBC said.

A reception was held by the Anglican Bishop of Leicester, the Rt Rev Tim Stevens, and guests included the Archdeacon of Leicester, Richard Atkinson, and the Chair of the Leicester Council of Faiths, Resham Singh Sandhu.