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02 March, 2009

Poster, 'The Imam and the Pastor'
Poster, 'The Imam and the Pastor'
Twenty young men, all ‘doing time’ at Her Majesty’s Young Offenders Institute, Rochester, walked quietly into the multi-faith room and sat down in front of a TV screen. Ten Muslims and ten Christians had been selected by the prison’s chaplaincy team to watch The Imam and the Pastor. Five members of the chaplaincy team also attended the screening.

In her introduction, Sarah Tranter, Pastoral Care and Faith Alliance Manager, welcomed the film-makers and encouraged the audience to share their observations in a discussion after the film.

The young offenders watched attentively. When the film ended, Shaffiq Din, Muslim chaplain, took the chair, and invited thoughts or comments. Hands went up immediately:

- ‘This DVD has taught me not to pre-judge people.’

- ‘You can learn from each other.’

- ‘I’ve learnt that you shouldn’t separate yourself from others until you know what they are about.’

- ‘Deep down I don’t believe I can do that [forgiveness], but it’s good to see that it can happen.’

Shaffiq thanked those who contributed. He said that for him ‘this film sums up what Islam teaches and it sums up what Christianity teaches.’ He asked everyone what changes could comes into their lives after watching it.

We broke for lemon squash and biscuits. Conversation was lively. One inmate we chatted with spoke cogently about the inconsistency and the folly of ‘war on terror’.

We resumed for questions. The prisoners asked what had motivated us to make the film, how people reacted when we chose Nigeria as the location and how the film had gone down in the House of Commons. We answered that the discussion in prison was better!

The evening ended with handshakes and smiles and salams and continuing conversation, even as the lads were led out.

Alan Channer and Imad Karam

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