Interfaith relations

Europe: Metropolitan Jerome has a keen interest in the plight of persecuted Christians and has been eager to express solidarity with those suffering in the Middle East for some years. Appreciating the history of our church with the Patriarchate of Antioch & All the East, Metropolitan Jerome has continually tried to highlight the plight of Syrian Christians (where the Antiochian Patriarchate has its headquarters in Damascus) to churches in the West. In 2015 he was invited by Lord Laird of Artigarvan to be a keynote speaker in the House of Lords at a debate about the Syrian Refugee crisis and in recent years has been networking to provide Syrian Refugees in Brighton (declared a “City of Sanctuary”) a welcome, offering support and assistance in the city from various projects including “The Hub” drop in and “Cherubs Kitchen” apostolates which he founded.

Metropolitan Jerome is a trustee of BHFA (Brighton & Hove Faith in Action) a multifaith charity that brings together faith groups to deliver more efficient social welfare and community development projects. Recently Brighton & Hove City Council granted funding to the BHFA from the City Council’s Collaboration Fund to establish a “Combatting Faith Hate Partnership” after alarming official statistics showed a significant rise in Religiously Motivated Hate Crimes in the city over the past four years. Events in the Middle East clearly impact the faith and ethnic communities with ties to those countries affected by the religious and political tensions there. So today (L-R in photo) Father Youhana of the Coptic Church met with Metropolitan Jerome, Imam Uthman from Al-Medinah Mosque and Sabri Benameur from Brighton and Hove Muslim Forum, facilitated by BHFA Project Coordinator, Lev Eakins to discuss ways in which to bring their communities together as witnesses to faith and tolerance in the city.

Sharing personal faith stories about their lives and the history and experiences of their communities, and recognising connections already existing between members of their respective communities, the participants quickly developed trust and respect for each other and began to discuss ways in which they might work together. Two future events have now been suggested, the first an invitation from Imam Uthman to break fast during Ramadan “iftar” this coming May, to which Fr Youhana responded the Copts would be observing the Apostle’s Fast (after Pentecost) later in May, so it was agreed a joint break-fast event would be planned. Then Fr Youhana returned the gesture by proposing to host another social event later in the year – fast-free! Throughout the meeting an air of mutual respect and genuine cordiality pervaded and resulting from the meeting was a shared desire to engage more at an interreligious level, locally. 

Today’s meeting comes ahead of the BHFA’s Faith Council meeting tomorrow,  when Metropolitan Jerome together with other local Faith leaders will sign a document of principles outlining the ambitions of the Combating Faith Hate Partnership. In partnership with local Jewish, Muslim, Anglican and Catholic groups, the BHFA will run a programme designed to educate both young people and adults over religious tolerance and mutual respect, as well as fostering closer relationships of trust between local Faith groups.

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