Church of Ireland Primate, Archbishop John McDowell, received a warm welcome when he visited the Belfast Islamic Centre (BIC), in Wellington Park, on Monday January 17.
The welcoming party included the present Chairman of the Centre, Mohamed Arshed; former Chairman, Dr Wasif Naeem; and Administrator Pashmina, along with other senior members of the Belfast Islamic community.
The group enjoyed friendly conversation over refreshments in the multi-purpose building. A Powerpoint presentation was given by Dr Wasif on behalf of BIC, the largest institution of the Muslim community in Northern Ireland, outlining the work of the centre and some of the practical challenges faced in particular since the outbreak of Covid-19 in March 2020, alongside those resulting from Brexit.
Following the visit, Archbishop John said: “The language and practice of inter-faith dialogue and engagement has evolved and changed considerably over the last 50 or more years. Dialogue between faith groups with the aim of seeking to better understand one another’s religion, culture and scriptures continues to be important in fostering mutual respect, combatting racism, discrimination and sectarianism and in promoting peaceful relations between faith groups and individuals.
“However, that form of engagement and understanding is no longer perceived as exhausting our scope for working together if indeed it was previously. Rather, there is a healthy movement towards compassionate action and active collaboration between faith groups in responding to human need and towards the common goals of addressing local and global social injustices, poverty and suffering.”
The Archbishop continued: “The work of the Belfast Islamic Centre in addressing the needs of people from 42 countries, yet open to all from any community, is truly impressive. Their work with the most needy and marginalised, particularly refugees and asylum seekers, is a remarkable example of love in action.
“For Anglicans everywhere and in the Church of Ireland, this evolution is supported by the thrust of the Five Marks of Mission of the Anglican Communion, a statement which points to the variety and breadth of the Church’s mission while acknowledging that evangelism undergirds all Christian mission and engagement.
“We look forward to developing our on-the-ground friendships with our Muslim and other-faith brothers and sisters.”