Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Don’t Mess With a Priest and an Iman.

“When a female priest is at the door, you ain’t going to mess”, says lead chaplain Rev Fiona Weaver.  

The dynamic duo of Imam Admani and Rev Fiona who work together at London met chaplaincy hit some serious heavenly clout in coming to the aid of faith and non faith students in family squabbles, crazy landlord rifts, and academic/faith issues. 

We can expect some more inspiring stories from the dynamic duo as the term progresses.
“People still have respect for a woman and the dog collar”, says Revd Fiona. Indeed the Church of England still has legality on its side. 

The Equality Bill, parts of which have been enforced since Oct 1 this year and was spearheaded by the former Labour government also gives faith workers and inter faith forums more authority and backing as it collates previously scattered anti-discrimination laws.  

Before the bill, public duties’ only considered disability, gender and race as “protected characteristics”.

Certain clauses of the bill however place limits on the “positive action” a company may take to alleviate disadvantage experienced by people with a “special characteristic”. It will be another matter for Christopher Booker to blame on the EU’s “power craze”.

The university is keen to stress itself as a “secular institution”. The chaplaincy was critical of the Fresher’s week for excluding particular faith groups by not providing alternative activities, for example, Muslims who are unable to drink under their faith. 

It has come to light that the registry regularly calls the chaplaincy for support in dealing with faith/academic issues.  

University Staff are required to attend training workshops in diversity; however faith awareness is only an optional unit of the training.

According to Rev Fiona, faith students either closet their faith while socially fitting in, or assert their religious identity in a fundamentalist way, “These are two ways students deal with their identity”, Rev Fiona explains.

“I feel good to be seen as a liberal person but still have strong values and faith in my religion” says a a Muslim studying event management who insisted on being unnamed, “In Pakistan I might be considered very liberal...but I still have a conservative side”.  

She highlighted the practical difficulties for a Muslim in sticking to prayers.  Preparation for prayer can be time consuming and the whole process can take up 20-25 minutes.  

Some Muslim students have taken to praying only once at about 4-5pm, “as long as I do my practice and duty, I’m happy”, said Amin Sharif who studies Computing Science and lives in Ox bridge. 

Amin uses the prayer rooms once a day, but wasn’t bothered about being involved in the Islamic Society.

The Revd has a good relationship with the Christian Union; however there have been clashes as some Christians have  asserted evangelical views on abortion and other topics in lectures and even in the Piazza. “Freedom of speech comes with responsibility, there needs to be a balance.  Spirituality not religion”, said the Revd and Imam.

Faith and non-faith Students have been regularly seeking pastoral support to “cope with life”. 

Main issues include living faith/study, sexuality and faith, living away from home/ problems at home and abusive relationships.

Student Mariam Morid has formed an initiative called "Muslim Jewish friendship". 

She was inspired by her cousin who took a Jewish fiancee. Alot of Mariam's Afghan family members cut her off because of anti-Semitism. 

The group is still in planning stages.

"We think that growing problems like Islamophobia and anti-Semitism come from insufficient knowledge but also from the media and the countries that we live in, and we’ll tackle it through having fun music events and do other things to explore each other.”

The subject of inter faith forums is pertinent at a time when Germany has just broken its silence on immigration and job concerns. 

The Germany chancellor announced in the last week "multiculturalism is dead" in Germany, in speaking of the millions of Turkish immigrants who came to Germany in 1960's to fill a labour hole,including some 4 million Muslims. 
Some of the political parties spoke about "dominant Germany culture" "integration"  and Christian values. 

Currently London met has an Islamic society, a Shea society, Christian Union, and Life way Christian fellowship. There is talk of students forming a Jewish society.

Similarly, a “soul conversations” event will be held for the first time in London for London met students, an event which has been popular throughout the UK universities. 

It will encourage different faiths to share their personal spiritual experiences, organised jointly by the chaplaincy and NUS.

By Shaun Humphreys

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