Vicar and Imam lead school assembly

Author: Kat Brealey

Date: 18 March 2016

In the Diocese of West Yorkshire and the Dales,  a vicar and an imam have started taking an assemblies together in their local primary school, which has a mix of Christian and Muslim pupils.

The Revd Heston Groenewald (vicar of All Hallows, Hyde Park in Leeds) says, “This is the second time my friend Adam Aslam and I have led an assembly; our desire is to model friendship to show the harmony there can be between different faiths, and to help change the current narrative a bit. As it was in the week after Mothering Sunday we took the theme of God wanting us all to be in his family and to give a bigger sense of who that family might include – that it can include people who look and sound different to each other. I told the Gospel story of Jesus saying “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?  . . . whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” And Adam told a story from the life of the Prophet Mohammed in which he brings an orphan into both his family and the Muslim community. We finished with Adam saying a prayer from the Qu’ran with some of the Muslim children, and I said the Lord’s Prayer with the Christian children  - well, in fact everyone knew it and joined in with it. Obviously there are differences between us, faith-wise, but we have a lot in common too, and it’s very good for the children to see the genuine friendship there is between us. And just to make the point clear, we finished with a hug!"

Adam added, "Reflecting upon Islamic scripture and statements, I am drawn to the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad's (pbuh) family, 'That we are either, brothers in faith or partners in humanity'. Reverend Heston is both a brother and partner in faith, through whom I am able to express and practice the beautiful teachings of charity, friendship and kindness within our respective faiths.Our genuine friendship as people of faith is much needed in order to promote love and understanding in our community, given the ignorance speared by negative media and problems abroad. Our friendship is hopefully one of many reminders of the positive nature of human beings."

Adam and Heston met on the Faithful Neighbours 'Catalyst' programme for young leaders a year ago, which is funded by Near Neighbours, and have been firm friends since. Life in Hyde Park is full of opportunities for such cross-cultural friendships and collaboration, given that All Hallows has three Mosques and a Hindu Temple in its parish!