Clergy training in the Church of England must give higher priority to understanding Islam, a consultation by the 11 member-agencies of the Anglican Partnership for World Mission (PWM) has concluded.
The consultation, held at Launde Abbey in Leicestershire, 2-4 February, called for national guidelines to ensure clergy were competent in understanding Islam and capable of dealing with questions that their church members might raise in an era when inter-faith issues were so crucial.
"We appreciate that each theological college or training course must decide how this is worked out in practice", said a spokesperson, "but this issue is so important the whole church must regard it as a priority. We think every Anglican theological college needs staff who have understanding and experience of Islam."
Creating harmony among people of faith is crucial in a world where terrorism and conflict are on the increase the consultation stressed. "When people who are religious are in conflict and kill each other, they give the impetus to secularism and help make the case for it," an African member of the consultation commented. "We need to live with our differences in peace, or we will find ourselves in pieces." This was the case in the UK, as well as the more obvious areas of tension across the world.
"Working in co-operation with Muslims on social developments projects and human rights is also crucially important and helps allay mutual suspicion", another delegate observed. "The global village is small. What happens in Bradford is known within minutes in Rawalpindi."
The consultation, "A Faithful Presence", was for PWM agencies to identify shared strategies for their work in places where Islam is a significant faith. Assisting were several international visitors working in Islamic contexts as well several Church of England adviser on interfaith issues. It is one of the first concrete steps carrying forward a Covenant for closer co-operation signed last year by all the Anglican mission agencies in the presence of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams. The planning group, under PWM, was Church Mission Society, United Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, Mothers' Union: all of whom have special expertise in, and concern for, work with Muslims in the UK and across the world.