I was amongst approximately a hundred Muslims and Jews to attend the ninth annual event for Muslim Jewish Conference (MJC) this year. This is an event hosted by the Muslim Jewish Conference and Connecting Actions. Every year the location is different and this year it took place in Paris and in Vellicien, France, for six days in the middle of cold December.
I'm not sure what initially motivated me to attend the event, but I spotted a Facebook ad and immediately registered for it, despite the long application. I wanted to take advantage of this opportunity to meet other like-minded people who are also working on interfaith initiatives. Granted that Renee, BwD Interfaith Forum's 94-year-old Jewish representative - possibly being the only Jewish person living in Blackburn, I do not run into Jewish people often. Therefore, I thought this would be something interesting to be a part of, and I cannot also deny that I have witnessed a great deal of antisemitism within my own community. So, what better way to address this than to live with other Muslims and Jews for six days in the middle of nowhere, in a foreign country.
I went in with little expectations and an open heart. I came out at the end with a network of international friends and a greater appreciation for diversity - and the lack of sleep throughout the week was worth the whole experience.
I was overwhelmed after the first day just by meeting so many phenomenal and inspirational young activists, who are definitely ruffling some feathers in their own communities, doing interfaith work and influencing change in their communities. Approximately, a hundred people from around the globe gathered for this event, from Europe, North and South America, Africa, the Middle East and Asia.
This wasn't supposedly a 'religious event' despite the name of the conference, but it was an event that brought individuals, of different faiths and no faiths, together who wish to confront social tensions where necessary, especially where faith communities are involved. Every individual offered their own experiences, methods for best practice and contributed to a shared sense of global reality.
The week consisted of all participants engaging in four different themed tracks. These four tracks included, building projects and incubating ideas to create action; creating local chapters of MJC to work as a global community and create a sustainable impact; experts and NGO leaders sharing best practice for maintaining and building efforts for a coalition and finally, gathering thoughts for creative, innovative and effective solutions to address contemporary challenges faced in today's society.
Of course, this was a lot to get through in one week but, we managed. My highlight of the week was observing the Sabbath with our fellow Jewish friends from Friday through to Saturday, where the challah (a traditional bread baked during Sabbath) was baked by a Muslim lady. It touched me that non-Jewish people, like myself, were invited to participate in the ceremonial rituals of the Sabbath - something that was usually shared intimately with family and friends in the comfort of their own communities or their homes.
Likewise, it was equally heartwarming to watch the Non-Muslim members participate in the Friday Jummah prayers, listening attentively to the khutbah (the sermon) and standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the Muslims in prayer.
It was moments like these that bring a flicker of hope of what the future could look like when we all accept one another as human beings, beyond our faiths, ethnic backgrounds, nationality, sexuality, disability and gender.
All in all, I am grateful to the Muslim Jewish Conference for allowing me to be a part of this and I look forward to all the wonderful things that come forward from this event.