Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams and Professor Tariq Ramadan are to address the role of faith in British society at the first Christian Muslim Forum annual conference, which starts today (Monday) in Cambridge.
As part of the landmark three-day event programme, around 30 Christian and Muslim leaders will take to the water in punts, negotiating the River Cam while reflecting on discussions held throughout the day, reports Rosamond Hutt for Community Newswire.
This evening, Dr Williams, himself a Cambridge University theology graduate, will deliver a public lecture on the role and responsibilities of faith communities in civil society, with Durham University's Professor Anne Loades and Cambridge University's David Thompson also speaking.
Professor Ramadan is due to speak on the same subject at the same time tomorrow, September 11, the sixth anniversary of the terrorist attacks on America.
He will share the podium with Associate Professor Saba Mahmood, from the University of Berkeley in California, and Professor Azim Nanji, director of the Institute of Ismaili Studies.
The Forum's prime concern is to deepen mutual understanding and trust to enable active collaboration between Muslim and Christian communities in England.
Bishop David Gillet, chair of the Christian Muslim Forum, which was set up by Dr Williams and is a national voice for Christians and Muslims in the UK, said: "Religion has never been higher in the political and public agenda in this country.
"It is an important and poignant time for the Forum to pose the question of how faith fits in society and for two of the world's most recognisable Christians and Muslims to address it.
"This landmark conference is quite literally taking a punt for peace."
The Christian Muslim Forum is made up of members of the Muslim and Christian communities - Sunni, Shi’a, Anglican, Catholic, Baptist, Pentecostal, Methodist and Coptic Orthodox - and includes various traditions, Evangelicals, Deobandis, Barelwis, and Sufis.
The Christian Muslim-Forum came 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.