Call for faiths to build on 'romantic phase'

Leslie Griffiths.
Leslie Griffiths.
A ''romantic phase'' that has brought Christian, Muslim and other faiths together since the September 11 attacks is now ripe for consummation, a visiting Methodist minister and British Labour Party politician says.

''It's very nice the faiths have come to the point they've got to,'' the Rev Dr Lord Leslie Griffiths said.

''They're talking to each other now, doing things with each other now, enjoying each other's company now.

''This isn't far enough.''

Lord Griffiths is in Dunedin for about a week, and has been involved in the National Interfaith Forum, held at the weekend at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in St Clair.

Next Monday, he is due to give the Otago Tertiary Chaplaincy and Dunedin Abrahamic Interfaith Group peace lecture.

Originally from Wales, he spent the 1970s serving in Haiti, a country he still cares about and tries to help through his parliamentary role.

As the Superintendent Minister of Wesley's Chapel in London, Lord Griffiths is the 59th successor of John Wesley, who founded the Methodist denomination in the 18th century, and is ''the guardian of his bones''.

The columnist and broadcaster this week said the time had come for people of various faiths to recognise ''they mustn't just sit and enjoy each other's company''.

''They've got to identify pieces of social action that they can undertake together.''

That meant getting together to make the world a better place in areas of human rights, justice and peace.

Despite the differences in the faiths, there was one thing major religions had in common, Lord Griffiths said.

''I think that the three religions, Jews, Muslims and Christians, increasingly come to talk about things that way: we don't have different gods, we have the one God.''

The Hindu religion, with many gods, and Buddhists, who ''don't talk about God very much at all'', were different.

''Mutual respect is the way we work with them.''

The life peer in the House of Lords, where he sits with the Labour Party, is in a somewhat unusual position of being a working cleric in politics.

That came after an invitation from former prime minister Tony Blair, something Lord Griffiths said he neither expected, nor asked for.

He had the opportunity to be a ''cross-bencher'', a neutral member of the House of Lords who votes on conscience.

''But I was quite clear I wanted to join the Labour Party in the Lords because I thought I didn't want to go into the political arena and not do the politics.

''I love doing politics.

''And secondly, I think politics is too important to leave to politicians.''

He will talk to the Labour group in Parliament today and preach at Knox Church in Dunedin on Sunday.

david.loughrey@odt.co.nz

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