Muslims were invited to pray in a church in a well-meaning attempt towards unity between Abrahamic faiths in Manchester, England, in a move which has since been dubbed ‘controversial’ by Church leaders.
Rabat – In Durham, an area in Manchester, England, Reverend Lissa Scott and Gerald Lee, a former mayor in the region, invited Muslim men and women to use the aisles of St Matthew and St Luke’s churches as a place of prayer.
The invitation was for an event the two churches were planning to hold to celebrate Ramadan, a holy time for Muslims.
The Muslims were offered separate spaces for men and women. In further sensitivity to Islamic beliefs, images of Jesus and the cross were to be covered.
According to minutes from the meeting on May 9, where these plans were discussed,“ one aisle in church [was] to be cleared of chairs for Muslim men to say prayers.”
Gerald Lee wishes to strengthen “racial harmony” with his group, Celebrating Communities, which organizes diverse social events.
One of the portraits of Jesus which would have been covered is a well-known copy of The Light of the World by the pre-Raphaelite artist William Holman Hunt.
In opposition to the idea of Muslims praying in the church, the Diocese of Durham denied permission to hold Islamic prayers in the church building. He argued that doing so is against church law, as non-Christian worship is not allowed in a Church of England building. A representative of the Diocese said, “they realize that the vicar made a silly mistake.”
Christian Episcopal Church Bishop Gavin Ashenden also disapproved of the plans, because they would “disrespect Jesus.”
“When Muslims come into our church, we invite them to come in and respect Jesus. If we accepted an invitation to go into a mosque, we would respect Muhammad,” he said.
“Islam and Christianity are not Abrahamic cousins in Middle Eastern religion. They’re actually antithetic to each other.”
The event celebrating Ramadan is still being held. The new area for Muslims to pray, however, is yet to be announced.