By Marcus Dysch
July 6, 2010
As the fallout rumbles on from the Methodist Church's endorsement last week of an anti-Israel report, I bring news of my own (albeit initially unintended) work to repair interfaith relations.
I am collecting stickers for the Panini World Cup album (yes I am 27, laugh if you like) and in an increasingly desperate attempt to fill the book and find those pesky last few Beckhams or Ronaldos I resorted to Twitter for help.
After posting a tweet asking for help from fellow collectors I was contacted by a lady from my home city, Hull.
We exchanged emails and sent each other a list of the numbers of the stickers we needed. Stay with me, it gets more interesting.
When it emerged I could only offer her half a dozen stickers, but needed no fewer than 40 of hers in return, I offered to send her a few pounds to make up the difference.
She replied saying she would not accept any money, "in the interests of interfaith relations".
I was slightly baffled, but after another email there and back discovered that she was a Methodist who had been following the JC's coverage last week thanks to my tweeting from the conference in Portsmouth.
Keen to do her bit to show there should be no hard feelings and we should work to keep lines of communication open, she wanted to assist me with my sticker collecting.
We posted each other the stickers and, rather sweetly, her five-year-old son, having received the package, "jumped about excitedly" and proclaimed me "fabulous".
There is a moral to this tale.
The situation with the Methodist Church's endorsement of the anti-Israel report is clearly very serious and threatens interfaith work between Jewish and Christian groups. The conference delegates clearly underestimated the political repercussions.
But I have also seen some relatively vitriolic, probably a little over-the-top, comments coming from the Jewish community.
It is worth remembering despite all this that the votes of 200 Methodists do not represent the views of every Methodist in the country. Yes the report was biased and uncalled for from a church organisation, but vast numbers of Methodists, in their churches and community centres around Britain, oppose it and do not intend to break off relations or go and plant Palestinian flags in their front gardens.
One Methodist minister contacted me yesterday to say he was deeply upset by the report and asked if I could relay to the Jewish community that he and his wife always attempt to purchase Israeli products, including those from settlements, when out shopping, and that he would be encouraging his congregants to ignore the report's call for a boycott.
Meanwhile interfaith groups are urging their grassroots members to go out and carry on their good work, meet each other, find ways to plot future relations and so on.
The everyday reality of life for Methodists, Jews, Muslims, Sikhs and people of all religions is not motions and boycotts, protests and complaints, conferences and politics.
Rather it is friendly cooperation, a sense of being people of faith in a world where increasingly people are not religious, and small acts of kindness... such as the swapping of football stickers.
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