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Rob now looked at the aspects of Trustbuilding in a little more detail by putting up a slide showing the four aspects of Trustbuilding. The slide is replicated below:
Discussing this aspect of trust building in a little more detail, Rob and Willemijn commented that we can all benefit from spending a little time in introspection each day, time in which we can consider whether we are contributing to and living like the community we want to live in. Rob described how he had fallen out with a work colleague for several years until, one day, while to was considering why this relationship had broken down, his conscience told Rob to think less about how he himself felt and a little more about the fact that his colleague felt that he had been wronged by Rob. So Rob called his colleague and to talk through things. The very next day the colleague called Rob and arranged to drive 100miles over to have lunch, which just goes to show how powerful the effects of reconciliation can be.
Acknowledge history and stories
Rob pointed out that if issues are not resolved, they end up being transferred, which is why race and slavery are still such live issues in the US today, 150 years after slavery was abolished. In addition, this transfer can result in the victims becoming victimisers.
Invite all to the table
Inviting everyone to the table means, by definition, that one has to engage with the “other” – which takes courage and can leave the people doing the engaging vulnerable to accusations of “selling out” or weakness. Rob pointed out to the leaders in the room that “if you want to be a bridge, you have to be prepared to get walked” and that one can spend so much time focussing on the enemy that one forgets to focus on the problem. Difficult times can make it easier to find and blame scapegoats for society problems. As Mee Moua, an ethnic minority politician in the US has commented “In our post-9/11 age, every American has been given tacit permission to unleash their anxieties on those they believe to be 'the Others'
Rob described an Initiatives of Change project in Richmond where leaders of the Christian Evangelical community met with Imams from the city’s Muslim community. As a first step, the two groups were asked to go to separate rooms for an hour and come up answers to two questions.
Q1) What can be do better?
Q2) What would we like to see from the “other”?
After an hour, the two groups came back to the table and discussed their findings
The Evengelicals said that they had not made sufficient efforts to reach out to the Muslim community and that what they wanted to see from the Muslim community was an absolute rejection of terrorism (which the Muslims were happy to provide)
For their part, the Muslim representatives admitted that they had been too insular as a community and that what they wanted to see from the Evangelicals was an absolute commitment to plurality.
Rob described how one of the Muslim representatives invited one of the Evangelicals over for a barbeque and that the conversation they struck up during this revealed that they had many areas of common ground. For example, they were both concerned about the loss of moral values and valued the family. This initial contact provided the basis for a conversation between the groups that is still going on.
The final parting comments from Rob were to ask the attendees to consider the following:
What conversations are not taking place?
Whose story needs to be heard?
Is there one step I can take to have an honest conversation?
With the “common ground” being a particular theme of BFTF, the following email was sent to a couple of the Imams at the Meeting
“. . . I noted the comments during the meeting regarding the Muslim community often being a long way behind the cutting edge of providing (and practicing) solutions to many of societies problems – and how many Muslims only related the act of worship to Islam and did not implement Islamic values in the rest of their daily lives.
One way of providing at least a partial solution to these problems is to provide leadership to the Muslim community in some of the many areas where we can find common ground with the wider society.
To pick just a few examples where the groundwork has already been done, the Masjid could :
i) Demonstrate Islam’s commitment to safeguarding the environment by only using sustainably sourced paper – and telling the congregation about this
ii) Encourage the community to take advantage of community open days and public lectures at local Universities
iii) Lobby on behalf of the Muslim community in cases where human rights abuses are taking place – and tell the community what you are doing.
iv) Lobby to ensure that legislation discouraging smoking is not watered down – and tell the community what you are doing.
v) Encourage the Muslim community to take advantage of local events where they can learn about the history of their city.
vi) Publicise to the Muslim community any reports on mosque best practice and tell the community whether the Masjid is going to implement any of the recommendations.
vii) Offer to educate the community (both Muslim and non Muslim) about the wide variety of trees that exist within a few hundred metres of the Masjid ( of course, it would be prudent to implement (i) before undertaking this action).
viii) Recommend to the community that simply changes to their shopping habits (e.g buying free-range eggs, FSC/recycled paper products, MSC certified fish)are praiseworthy actions and have the potential to make a real difference to the quality of the world that our children may live in.
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UPDATE(06 Nov 11)
One of the Imams replied, saying thank you and that they would incorporate some of these topics into their sermons as appropriate.