There is a broad range of opinion found both within and between our member churches. These opinions give life to our discussions. This blog is an opportunity to showcase the range and tapestry of thinking that we experience when we come together. Views are the authors own and do not necessarily represent the views of the Council or the Member Church.
Dublin City Interfaith Charter
By Dr Damian Jackson
Damian Jackson, ICC/IICM Programme Officer and member of Dublin City Interfaith Forum
I recently attended the launch of the Charter of the Dublin City Interfaith Forum in conjunction with Dublin City Council in the Mansion House on the 20th December. The event was hosted by Lord Mayor Brendan Carr and marked the culmination of a process which bears witness to the faith communities’ desire that Dublin should be a city in which people of all faiths can belong and participate to the full in civic life. The Charter provides the framework for the faith communities’ work with the city council and other stakeholders to ensure that all can freely practice their faith, whilst recognising and respecting the differences between the faiths.
The Oak Room of the Mansion House was full and the atmosphere was warm and filled with anticipation. Many faiths were represented along with civic organisations including An Garda Síochána in the person of Assistant Garda Commissioner Jack Nolan, and the Chief Commissioner of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission, Emily Logan. Michael O’Sullivan, Chair of DCIF welcomed everyone before the Archbishop of Dublin, the Most Rev Dr Michael Jackson (DCIF and Church of Ireland) introduced the document, emphasising that it is intended as a basis for action together, specifically at grassroots level: “It’s for neighbours that want to be friends”. Archbishop Jackson pointed out that Christians have up to now simply assumed an entitlement to be and to be here. These privileges can’t be assumed for other faiths but must be proactively secured. The Charter is one way in which all the faith groups recognise this need and commit to addressing in collaboration with the city council.
Lord Mayor Brendan Carr then passionately outlined the vision underlying the Charter and the circumstances which surround its introduction. He referred to the recent truck attack in Berlin, the Brexit campaign and the divisive rhetoric fuelled by such events, arguing that we need to develop an opposing discourse recognising the benefits of diversity and societal values of inclusiveness and mutual enrichment. He then challenged the faith leaders to make sure that the Charter doesn’t remain merely a piece of paper, but provides the basis for action: “What we do here needs to be brought back to our communities and we need to tell everyone about this Charter. This is the start of something … This is the start of people living together and supporting each other.”
Dublin City Interfaith Forum will now develop a schedule of projects and actions to carry out the aims of the Charter in collaboration with the city council. Through DCIF, people of all faith communities can do just that and the Charter can provide a shared understanding of the shape that collaboration can take. DCIF does not seek to establish theological common ground but rather recognises our distinct beliefs whilst pursuing our common interests as people of faith.
One such interest is to counter the risk of the emergence of an aggressive secularism which finds offence in the public practice or expression of religious faith. I’m excited to be involved in work together with my friends in other faiths to develop a counter–discourse which, rather than being rooted in fear of change, celebrates diversity and encourages acceptance of it. All faiths have an interest in protecting freedom of religious expression without the need for a privileged position for any faith, or for its suppression. To do this we need to recognise and address fears amongst those who don’t subscribe to any faith, fears which often have well–founded historical justification. This needs a combination of humility and recognition of past domination, and quiet assertiveness in claiming the rightful place of faith in civic life.
The text of the charter can be found here.