Faith groups could play a decisive role in tackling some of the biggest challenges facing the world today – from the climate emergency to acute poverty, a global gathering of Anglican bishops has agreed.
The way in which Christians work alongside people of other faiths to serve the common good can testify to the “gracious work of God beyond the church”, the latest “Call” agreed by bishops at the Lambeth Conference says.
It also includes an invitation to leaders of other faith communities, to join with the bishops to explore how they could work together more effectively on tackling climate change and other environmental challenges, alleviating poverty and caring for vulnerable people.
The Call on Inter Faith Relationships also acknowledges the reality of violence between and within religious groups in many parts of the world and notes that Anglicans face hostility and persecution in some areas of the world.
The bishops commit the Church to pray for the persecuted church in its efforts to continue to be a ‘gentle presence’, even in the face of hostility and the struggle to form strong relationships with neighbours of other faiths.
In a keynote address to the conference, the Bishop of Chelmsford, Dr Francis Guli-Dehqani spoke of her experience of persecution as an Anglican in Iran at the time of the Islamic Revolution in 1979.
She came to Britain as a refugee from Iran aged 14 years old, where she has remained and become a British citizen.
She said: “The wide diversity of engagements with other religious traditions represented in this room will emphasise different elements of interfaith relations, including dialogue, work for the common good, witness and evangelism.
“Each of you will have important insights that, somehow, need to be held in tension together for the fullest and richest understanding.
“For some, the priority will be dialogue which seeks deeper understanding and works towards the Common Good – people of faith, seeking peace and reconciliation, and looking to make the world a better place.
“For others, this may be a far cry from their experience.”
She added: “To have confidence in one’s faith, while continuing to try and understand the other more fully – that is a kind of dialogue.
“And when the situation arises, by offering the hand of friendship based on generosity and forgiveness – that too is dialogue in action and it is the kind of dialogue Anglicans in Iran have participated in for much of their history.
“In other contexts, there are possibilities to work collaboratively for areas of shared concern, for the common good and for the peace of the world.
“The Covid pandemic, tackling climate change, and indeed the very cause of religious freedom can provide huge opportunities for partnership across faith communities.
“These are valuable and should be pursued wherever possible.
“To those who are fortunate enough, in relative safety, to be able to engage in such fruitful relationships, I would gently say always remember your brothers and sisters around the world who are suffering persecution.”