The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, is to host the inaugural meeting and formal launch tomorrow of a new Christian-Muslim Forum in the UK.
The event coincides with the unveiling in London today of what is claimed to be Europe's largest-ever exhibition to 'combat the myths, misconceptions and misunderstandings of Islam' - headed up by the Muslim envoy who has been seeking the release of four Christian Peacemaker Teams activists in Iraq.
The Christian-Muslim Forum brings together a wide range of people involved in community life from both faiths, together with specialist members. It is also supported by scholar-consultants drawn from academic life.
As a Founding Patron of the Forum, Dr Williams will welcome senior church and faith leaders, politicians and other guests at an evening reception to mark the new body's inception.
The Christian Muslim-Forum has come into being as the result of a Listening Initiative first proposed in 1997.
The report of this initiative, published in 2004, recommended that a formal structure for dialogue and encounter would bring stability and promote understanding between the two faith communities as they encounter issues of difference and of common concern and seek to enhance their contribution to public life.
An implementation group headed by the Anglican Bishop of Bolton, the Rt Revd David Gillet, and senior Muslim leader Dr Ataullah Siddiqui, brought the Forum into being as a direct result of that recommendation.
The Christian-Muslim Forum has been set up as a charitable company. It has eight presidents - four Muslim and four Christian; twelve specialist members covering Community and Public Affairs, Education, Family Issues, International Affairs, Media and Youth; and six scholar-consultants.
The Forum will meet three times a year; and will be autonomous in establishing its agenda. As such it appears to be a consultative rather than a formal mechanism
Funding for the project has come from a mix of sources including grants from Christian and Muslim bodies, other trusts and a start-up grant from the Home Office. The government is known to be keen to streamline consultation with faith communities.
Dr Williams said the Christian-Muslim Forum was a great achievement. He declared: 'I'm delighted that the hard work that has been put into this project by so many people has achieved so much. Christians and Muslims have learnt a great deal over the past ten years about working together.'
Added the archbishop, who is titular head of the world's 77 million Anglicans: 'I very much hope that the Christian Muslim Forum will provide an opportunity for the members and consultants from both communities to explore together their common and different perspectives on issues affecting us all. I look forward to seeing their work develop.'
Meanwhile, the Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, is today launching the IslamExpo event which hopes to combat prejudice and hostility toward Muslim belief and culture.
IslamExpo will consist of a series of exhibitions on Islam's cultural heritage, lectures, debates, films, stand-up comedy and workshops at Alexandra Palace.
Organisers plan to invite survivors of the 7 July 2005 terrorist attacks to attend with a special commemoration on the day.
The event has received the backing of numerous Muslim groups as well as the al-Jazeera news channel and the Greater London Authority, reports The Independent newspaper. If it is successful, it may become an annual event in London.
Anas Altikriti from the Muslim Association of Britain, the director of IslamExpo, recently went to Iraq to plea for the release of the kidnap victim and Christian peace worker Dr Norman Kember. He said he hoped the event would 'build bridges'.
[Also on Ekklesia: The Road Ahead: A Christian-Muslim Dialogue; Anti-war campaigner flies to Iraq to plead for Christian peace worker; Muslim envoy may return to Iraq for CPT four; New appeal for release of Iraq peace workers; UK envoy remains hopeful on Iraq captivesArrests in Indonesian Muslim-Christian conflict zone; Comment from Christian Peacemaker Teams; Bishops call for post-9/11 rethink on force and freedom; Archbishop of Canterbury to visit quake-hit Pakistan; Christians produce advert condemning abuse of Iraqi prisoners; Williams to make 9/11 speech praising Islam; Christian convert killed in Iraq; Muslim anger at Carey's comments about Islam; Faith groups in the US unite to back Iraq captives]