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19 October, 2011
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Forty-five young Muslims from Austria, Bosnia, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK gathered in the Caux conference centre for a training programme Learning to be a Peacemaker, 20 to 31 July. It was the second such programme in Caux, led by Imam Ajmal Masroor from Britain.

‘Ajmal Masroor is very courageous. Seeing Britain at war in countries that their parents came from, young Muslims can feel uncertain about fully engaging with the society in which they have grown up. The reception of the majority community can also be equivocal, and the combination can lead to frustration and anger,’ says Peter Riddell, British joint co-ordinator of the programme. ‘The Muslim world is now part of the European world. Whereas a few decades ago, being European, on the whole, meant being white and Christian, now it means being of any colour and any religion. “Old” and “new” Europeans are on a journey of creating a new culture together. This can be a very creative enterprise if we understand each other’s journey and engage in it wholeheartedly.’ This is the importance, he believes, of a programme like this.

The participants were young Muslims who came to learn from Masroor and from each other. Masroor’s goal was to enhance their understanding of their own faith and how to live it out in the European context. The sessions were designed to equip participants to promote peace both within themselves and within the wider community.

The programme consisted of four days of ‘internal dialogue’ studying Islamic approaches to peacemaking, followed by participation in the week-long conference on the theme of Learning to live in a multicultural world: diaspora and peacemaking in Europe.

Finding common ground

Sabina Ali is a young professional in England. She said, ‘Coming to Caux really brings the ideals I’ve learned from religion to life. I can use my experiences from Caux and practise them in the corporate working environment back home.’ She continued: ‘I attribute my confidence as a Muslim woman to the things I learned here.’ She explained that in her view, all religions share commonalities, and it is important to celebrate those commonalities while respecting the differences.

Another participant, Suleyman Sakha, a dentist from the UK, said: ‘It’s not just an internal change that I’m seeking, but an external one as well.’ He explained that he hoped that this forum will give young, educated Muslims a chance to voice their opinions about what is going on in the world, so that there is a better understanding among people of different faiths and cultures. ‘You don’t have to be a Muslim to understand the beauty of Islam. We are trying to find common ground between people’s values and beliefs, to do what is best for all parties, without impinging on the human or civil rights of any group.’

Tanya Wood

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