A synagogue, mosque and church: Women’s interfaith weekend strengthens bonds

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A synagogue, mosque and church: Women’s interfaith weekend strengthens bonds

Jewish-Muslim network Nisa-Nashim strives for closer connections during whistle-stop London tour of places of worship

Credit: Yakir Zur6
Credit: Yakir Zur6

An interfaith group of 45 Jewish and Muslim women spent a weekend in London touring iconic places of worship from all three Abrahamic faiths.

Organised by Nisa-Nashim, the only Jewish-Muslim women’s national network in Europe, the retreat was designed to build stronger friendships and connections.

The women represented nearly 30 individual Nisa-Nashim groups from across the UK, each led by Muslim and Jewish co-chairs with the aim of celebrating similarities, respecting difference and building a more compassionate world.

The group toured and dined at the brand-new South Hampstead synagogue on Saturday evening, hearing from a young Ukrainian woman who learned English at the synagogue and enjoyed the warmth of the community. Then it was on to a personal development workshop at the Islamic Cultural Centre with a tour of the domed Regent’s Park mosque on Sunday.

The afternoon was spent in St Johns Wood church hall with Dr Jane Clements from the Forum for Discussion of Israel and Palestine (FoDIP), who led a discussion on how to have conversations “without tearing ourselves apart”.

During the weekend of cultural and religious exploration, Muslim and Jewish women were surprised to hear from the vicar of St Johns Wood Church, Anders Bergquist, that unlike the local mosque and synagogues, his church doors can be open from morning to night. This is in contrast to the security operations in place to protect their communities living in the UK and another similarity which Nisa-Nashim recognises, can bring them closer together.

Credit: Yakir Zur

Nisa-Nashim co-founder Laura Marks said: “While we hoped a few bagels might draw the women in, of course the main attraction was the three iconic places of worship which welcomed us so warmly. At a time when our differences are too often exploited by others, we focus on our similarities and on building precious personal connections, which will sustain us in our shared commitment to a kinder and more tolerant world.”-

Dr Jane Clements, founder of FODIP, said: “It was a privilege and a joy to be with such inspiring women and share something of their friendship, even when engaging with difficult issues”.

Local Nisa-Nashim group Muslim co-chair Elizabeth Arif-Fear said the retreat: “enabled us to learn about each other, plan for the year ahead and remember why Nisa-Nashim is so important.”

Anders Bergquist, vicar of St Johns Wood Church, said that courage, perseverance and respectful mutual listening are “exactly the things that our Muslim and Jewish friends were doing in our church hall. They set us an example.”

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