Last month, the diverse cultural and faith communities of Leicester met with the Archbishop of Canterbury, The Most Reverend Justin Welby. It was part of a three-day visit to the city, entitled ‘The Archbishop’s Big Conversation’, designed to give him, and our multicultural and multi-faith communities, time to share experiences.
At a special event, organised by the St Philips Centre and held at Leicester’s St Martin’s House, attendees discussed how different faiths can work together and how important this is for peace and prosperity. The Most Reverend Justin Welby reiterated his commitment to continuing the work of previous archbishops, Rowan Williams and George Carey, to foster open dialogue and interfaith relations.
The eagerness of the Anglican religious establishment to engage with other faiths, and work together in solidarity, is admirable and welcome. The meetings send a powerful message that Leicester, and the UK as a whole, is a place where diversity is celebrated and acknowledged as a source of strength. The exchange of views and opinions expressed was critical in making sure that we continue to maintain stability and confidence in our diverse communities not only here but also nationally and further afar.
Mr Welby assured us that religion is not forgotten in the corridors of power – that the House of Lords, for instance, can be a voice for faith communities, bringing together different faiths to discuss issues.
The Archbishop was extremely open and sensitive to the various questions that were put to him. Those attending had the privilege of expressing their views and receiving appropriate feedback. The event was helpful and constructive and gave a clearer insight into the position of the Church in matters relating to local and international politics and the ever-changing challenges facing our communities.
The FMO’s Suleman Nagdi commented: “It is important that at all levels there is appropriate space and attention drawn to matters relating to faith practice, ethical and moral considerations. This gives us the ability to recognise the humanity in ourselves and in others. The exchange of views was exceptionally helpful in bringing about a more in-depth understanding and appreciation of our diverse views and opinions of the world and the communities that we come from.
“We also recognise the hard work and effort of all those who are involved in making the arrangements and we are grateful to the Archbishop’s office in giving us the opportunity and time to have this exchange of views and to share our common humanity and hope that this can be repeated more regularly in other parts of the country.”
The Archbishop called Leicester was the most “exciting” city in the UK and one people are “looking at as a model for diversity in this lifetime.”