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Carmelites mark Interfaith Week
23 November 2011

Interfaith Week was particularly busy and productive for members of the Carmelite Family in Yorkshire, who took to heart the Carmelite Order's commitment to engage in dialogue with people of different faiths.

Interfaith Week is a nationwide initiative promoted by the Interfaith Network of the United Kingdom, of which the Roman Catholic Church is a member. In the English county of Yorkshire Interfaith Week is promoted by civic councils and local faith groups to encourage social cohesion and celebrate the contribution that people of faith bring to society.

York Interfaith Week has been promoted by the City of York Council
as part of the city's festival programme.

The Carmelite Spirituality Group in York prepared for the start of Interfaith Week by hearing a talk on the Catholic Church's approach to Inter-religious dialogue. On 19th November David Jackson, recently retired as Interfaith Officer for the Diocese of Leeds, gave a presentation at the group's monthly meeting.

David Jackson (left) addressing York Carmelite Spirituality Group.

David based his presentation on the text Meeting God in Friend and Stranger, a teaching document issued by the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales in 2010 to foster respect and mutual understanding between the religions. (To watch a video of David's presentation click on the arrow in the YouTube box below).

David's talk was repeated to Leeds Carmelite Spirituality Group on Sunday 20th November. That evening, two members of the Leeds group, Christine Kennally and Bernie Arauz Canton, organised a presentation on Hannakuh given at Our Lady of Kirkstall parish in Leeds by Ralph Ross an Orthodox Jew.

On Monday 21st November members of the Carmelite Family in York took part in a candle-lit walk between different places of Christian worship (there are no regular places of worship for other faiths within the city walls) organised by York Interfaith Group. The walk began at Central Methodist Church and moved on to St. Michael-le-Belfrey, an evangelical Anglican church. The next ports of call were St. Wilfrid's Roman Catholic Church and St. Martin-le-Grand Anglican Church. Participants walked up to the Pentecostal place of worship known as The Rock Church, before finishing at the Friends' (Quakers) Meeting House on Friargate.

The Interfaith Walk began by visiting the beautiful settings of
York Central Methodist Church and St. Michael-le-Belfrey Church.

Participants carried candles from St. Michael-le-Belfrey Church (right)
past York's most famous place of worship, the Minster.

The styles of worship at St. Martin's and The Rock Church are very different,
but all offered to the one God.


In the Friends' Meeting House the lanterns were arranged
as a focus for silent reflection.

On Wednesday 23rd November the University of York Catholic Chaplaincy, at More House, served by the Carmelite friars, was the venue for a social event for members of the different faith societies on campus. This was hosted by the Chaplaincy and attended by the University's Registrar and Head of Student Support Services Department.

Friars from More House took the opportunity of Interfaith Week to visit an exhibition on world faiths displayed in the central library and learning centre known as York Explore.

Brother Gerard Walsh reading about world faiths in the exhibition at York Explore.

Each day of Interfaith Week representatives of different major religions were on hand at York Explore to talk about their beliefs with the public and display artefacts associated with their religion.

Some objects associated with the Jewish faith on display in York Explore.

Members of the public learning more about the Jewish faith at York Explore.

On Thursday 24th November the Catholic Student Society at the University of York visited York mosque with members of the Carmelite friar community. The visit was an opportunity to ask questions about Islam and dispel myths about Muslim life and belief, as well as a chance for Muslims to ask questions about Christianity.

Catholic students (right) observing muslims at prayer in York Mosque.

Catholic students in dialogue with muslims at York Mosque.

Brother Gerard Walsh, O.Carm., in dialogue with a muslim at York Mosque.

On Saturday 26th November a film promoting a better understanding of faiths was premiered at City Screen cinema in central York. Entitled Young Faiths in the City, the film involved 25 young people representing five of the world faith communities to be found in York. The film will be released as a DVD to be offered as a resource to schools, faith communities, and neighbourhood groups. The film project was funded by the Community Development Foundation, Faiths in Action Programme, and City of York Council. The lead partners in the project were York Interfaith Group and Churches Together in York.

The Chair of Churches Together in York, Lay Carmelite Johan Bergström-Allen, said "This film will hopefully be a great resource for promoting understanding of different faiths in our city. Compared with some parts of Yorkshire, York is not known as a particularly diverse place. However, the demographics of York are changing, and apparently York has the fastest changing ethnic profile in Britain."

"Interfaith Week has been a great opportunity for Carmelites to learn more about how God works through different people and faith traditions, and to tell people about Carmel", Johan continued. "It has helped me appreciate better how often we use different words to mean the same thing. That struck me particularly during the Interfaith Walk. One evangelical church we visited spoke of its three-fold mission: Worship, Discipleship and Outreach. It occurred to me that these were simply different words for what we believe to be at the heart of the Carmelite charism: Prayer, Community and Service. There is so much that unites people of faith, and we must hold on to that truth whenever people try to divide society on ethnic or religious grounds."

To read more about the Carmelite Order's commitment to Interfaith encounter and dialogue click here.