The Most Reverend Dr Rowan Williams, the 104th Archbishop of Canterbury, writes:
NIFCON was mandated at the 1998 Lambeth Conference to encourage ‘progress towards genuinely open and loving human relationships between Christians and people of other faiths.’
It is worth restating why we do this: we are motivated by a humble confidence that if the Gospel is true it will indeed transform all human enterprise. But such transformation is only possible if we engage as fully and patiently as we can with the reality of the experience of other faiths. We cannot know in advance exactly how the gospel transformation is to come about, but it will be in honest and practical witness to the forgiveness, reconciliation and inclusion at the heart of the Gospel of Christ that our understanding will begin to grow.
The ability to communicate by a variety of means at great speed has in many ways brought the world community closer together, but, inundated with so much information, we are in danger of giving attention only to that which confirms our prejudices. If good news can travel fast so too can rumour and incitement. So if we desire to be ‘open and loving’ there is a need for patient listening, and an imperative to act as advocates on behalf of the misheard and misrepresented whether of our own faith or another.
Dialogue amongst faith leaders is a beginning but local, grassroots, face to face encounter is vital. A Network that shares best practice and enables all areas of the Communion to offer encouragement to one another is a valuable tool for both. I want to express my appreciation for what NIFCON has already done in this area – as well as for the interest and commitment of my predecessor, Archbishop Carey. So I warmly endorse the crucial work of NIFCON as it seeks to give opportunity for Anglicans the world over to share our stories and support one another as we meet our neighbours of other faiths, listen to them, learn from them, work with them for justice and peace, and share what we know of the love of God in Jesus Christ.
+ Rowan Cantuar
The profile of Inter-faith relations is growing daily as we begin to experience the reality of multi-culturalism and multi-faith communities in an increasingly secular world. The presence of other faiths in our communities challenges us to think again about our attitudes to other faiths, especially when we find that in our approach to many of the moral and practical issues facing us daily, other faith communities are our natural allies.
Respect is at the root of any ongoing search for peace, reconciliation, and the building of harmonious communities. Differences have to be acknowledged. Differences respected can bring a variety of perspectives to the common values and goals without compromising one’s understanding of truth or deeply held convictions.
Sadly, terrorism and civil strife in parts of the world has thrown all of this into stark relief in recent times and shows how ill-prepared many of us are for such necessary dialogue. The negative mixing of religion and politics needs to evolve into a positive engagement between faith and culture.
Uncovering the richness of another faith tradition helps us re-discover
the treasures of our own heritage, and so Christians involved in inter-faith
work have often found the task difficult at first but ultimately enriching,
and one which leads to a deepening of their own faith.
For all of these reasons I am pleased to endorse the work of The Anglican Communion Network for Inter Faith Concerns (NIFCON) in its complex but increasingly important work.
The Revd Canon Kenneth Kearon July 2005