Several of the world's earliest surviving texts of the Christian, Jewish and Muslim faiths are being exhibited side by side for the first time in a major exhibition which opened at the British Library in London on Friday 27 April - writes Martin Revis.
The Duke of Edinburgh, husband of Britain's Queen Elizabeth II, and Prince Moulay Rachid of Morocco were to preside at the inauguration of "Sacred - Discover what we share" which runs, with free public admission, until 23 September.
Interactive audio-visual devices explain the history and ceremonies of the three monotheistic religions, and a programme of colourful events on the library forecourt will include gospel choirs and a performance by the whirling Dervish dancer Zia Azazi
"We hope that this exhibition can make a significant contribution towards promoting better understanding of the three faiths," exhibition curator Graham Shaw told Ecumenical News International. "We took the groundbreaking decision to display objects of the three religions side by side rather than in separate zones to show how they have interacted and influenced each other and how much they have in common."
Shaw noted: "Faith affects all our lives, believers and secular alike, and we want to demonstrate how it is still relevant to contemporary Britain."
Among the oldest documents, he cited a Dead Sea Scroll fragment from AD 50, the Codex Sinaiticus, the oldest surviving complete copy of the New Testament in Greek dating from the fourth century AD and the Ma'il Qur'an from the first century of the Muslim Hijri calendar (early eighth century AD) which was penned within 100 years of the flight of the Prophet Muhammad from Mecca to Medina.
Another rare item is the Syraic Pentateuch, the earliest known dated Biblical manuscript written by Deacon John at Amida in Turkey in AD 463 which comprises the books of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.
Among the private loans are a gold shalwar kameez worn by Jemima Goldsmith when she married the former Pakistan cricket captain Imran Khan.
A leading exhibition sponsor is the Moroccan British Society, along with faith bodies and other institutions including the Coexist Foundation and the Saint Catherine Foundation.
[With grateful acknowledgements to ENI. Ecumenical News International is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, and the Conference of European Churches]