Interfaith spar results in awkward hug by jaffa cakes


From left to right: Dr Kate Wharton, Dr Maria Heim, Dr Brandon Gallaher, Professor Gwen Griffeth-Dickson, Professor Chakravarthi Ram Prasad, Dr Clare Carlisle. Photo W. Merttens

A Buddhist scholar of Keirkegaard, an agnostic scholar of Buddhaghosa, an orthodox Christian theologian and a learned Oxford don who happens to be a Hindu were sitting side by side on a discussion panel.

Sounds like it could be the beginning of a rather convoluted study-of-religions joke, but actually it was an interfaith conference organised by Dr Kate Wharton, deputy secretary for inter-religious affairs to the archbishop of Canterbury.

The panel seemed to be uncovering a tentative common ground – each of them in their way complicating the notion that a religion is a coherent phenomenon that starts and ends with its card-carrying devotees.

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Hunger Strike in Central London

photo Wilf Merttens

photo Wilf Merttens

On Exmouth Market in central London, there is a blue tent by the side of the road. Look closer and you will see that the side of the tent is daubed with the words “Jesus, help me”. Crowds bustle by on their way to and from work. But if you stuck your head inside, you would be greeted by the earnest face of Abdul Rahim Dehdozorgi.

Dehdozorgi has not eaten for more than 30 days. He is hungry. His movements are slow and deliberate. If you doubt his resolve, then look closely at his lips. They are sewn together with fishing wire.

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