As religious extremism and conflicts continue to dominate headlines, a Manchester Jewish writer is claiming religion ‘far more unites us than divides us’.
Sherry Ashworth, a Jewish writer and academic from Greater Manchester, believes interfaith work helped her discover that different religions have more common ground than we think.
Ms Ashworth attended a multi-faith tour of the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium, organised by North West MEP and Vice Chair of Security and Defence, Azfal Khan.
Mr Khan invited a diverse group comprised of leaders from five major religions in the North West.
These included Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Sikhism, and Hinduism as well as young people of varying backgrounds, ethnicities and professions.
“The big truth about interfaith work is that far more unites us than divides us,” said Ms Ashworth.
“And we only discover this universal truth when we meet real people from other faiths and don’t rely on media sources to do our thinking for us.
“Stereotyping is just lazy thinking. It atrophies your brain and should come with a government health warning.
“Afzal and his team gave us the opportunity to meet each other properly against the backdrop of the EU – a very fitting setting.”
The multi-faith event involved a tour of the European Parliament building, an introduction of how the European Parliament works, and took part in Parliamentary activities including an Interfaith VoxBox discussion.
Mr Khan, who was awarded a CBE for his work on community cohesion, said: “Through this visit, I wanted to share my experience as a Member of the European Parliament representing the North West.
“I also wanted to show the European Union’s positive impact on our daily lives.
“The EU’s slogan ‘unity in diversity ‘ was celebrated at its best, bringing together a very diverse group of multi-faith representatives of the North West region.”
He believes the experience challenged a ‘common media narrative’ of religion as a source of division and instead championed the argument that differences enrich human interaction.
“I am extremely proud of having given this group an opportunity to come together and hope that the unity that was reflected during their trip would be the start of a greater, stronger relationship back home in the North West,” he said.