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Frances Ward and Sarah Coakley (Eds) Fear & Friendship – Anglicans engaging with Islam.

Frances Ward and Sarah Coakley (Eds)

Fear & Friendship – Anglicans engaging with Islam

ISBN: 9781 4411 0149 5

Continuum, 2012, 154 pp, £14.99

In her foreword to this collection of essays Sarah Coakley (Norris-Hulse Professor of Divinity at the University of Cambridge) points out that Anglican Parochial Clergy (and by extension all Anglicans) are in a particularly strong position to ‘[broker] relations of hospitality, negotiation, friendship and debate between Christianity and Islam.’ The book is an account of a variety of approaches to this engagement, largely dependent on context, written by Anglicans from a variety of backgrounds. Although the majority of contributors are involved in parochial ministry, others write from the standpoint of academia and, in the final chapter, as a member of an enclosed Religious Order.

What made this book particularly exciting for me was that the contributors continually stress that many of the best means of engagement are already at our disposal and seemingly ‘normal.’ Take for example, Alex Hughes (a Parish Priest from Portsmouth) who describes the unfolding of a friendship between himself and a young Sunni Muslim. Initially, the conversation is dominated by points of difference, ultimately it becomes one characterised by mutual respect and listening. In a similar vein, Sister Judith SLG refers to an experience of sharing silent prayer with Muslim neighbours, a shared silence which not only brought together Muslim and Christian but Ahmadiya and Sunni, in itself no small achievement. In addition to these thought-provoking and challenging accounts of rich, fruitful and ‘normal’ engagement there are other essays, which enhance the scope of the book. In his essay Dr Philip Lewis, a highly respected academic and Islamicist, explores the ‘generation gap’ present within the Muslim Community in his home town of Bradford, a division between ‘traditional’ older Muslims and young Muslims who – like their western counterparts – reject much of their cultural and religious inheritance.

This is an excellent book, thought provoking, imaginative and inspiring. It is characterised by an honesty and realism born out of first-hand experience. It is to be hoped that many will read this book and be inspired by it to embrace whatever opportunities they may have to further the encounter with Islam (and indeed with other faiths) within their own context. The writers and editors are to be warmly congratulated for it.

Joseph Emmanuel SSF