CHRISTIANS and Muslims came together in Trowbridge last Saturday (21 Oct) for a religious celebration at St James’ Church to bring the two faiths closer.

For several months the Trowbridge Mosque has held open days at the end of each month, welcoming people to their place of worship to increase the understanding and make new friendships.

The Bishop of Salisbury, Rt Revd Nicholas Holtam, returned the hospitality when he met leaders of the Muslim community in West Wiltshire at St James’ in Church Street. He was accompanied by the Rector of St James’, the Revd Rob Thomas, and his Adviser on Inter-religious affairs, the Revd Canon Guy Wilkinson.

The Right Revd Nicholas Holtam, Bishop of Salisbury, said: “It is more important than ever that people of different faiths meet one another in an atmosphere of friendship.

“We live in a world where suspicions between people of different faiths or no faith can and does have terrible consequences. So, I was delighted to have the chance to get acquainted with friends from the local mosque.

“Everyone benefits when people who are near neighbours build relationships of trust, and collaborate together on initiatives that improve the local community they live in.”

The Rector of St James’, the Reverend Dr Rob Thomas, said: “Having been getting to know our Muslim neighbours through the Mosque Open Days we were delighted to welcome them to visit us in the parish church.

“They have been very welcoming to others, I myself have gone to the Mosque several times since their invitation, so we want to welcome the folk over there to come here. Hopefully this can be an ongoing relationship where we can get to know each other better.”

“The presence of our bishop today is a sign of the importance we attach to our developing friendship and our growing understanding of one another’s faith.

“We have been interested to learn more about Islam through the hospitality we’ve received in the Mosque, and we are delighted to have the opportunity today to reciprocate with our own hospitality and to share something of the Christian faith with our Muslim visitors.”

The Reverend Canon Guy Wilkinson, Bishop’s Adviser on Inter-Religious Affairs, said: “We Christians should always be ready to give an account of our faith in Jesus Christ, and we must remember also that people of other faiths are also loved by God.

“Inter-religious understanding and engagement is just as important in areas like this where minority faiths are a small proportion of the population. Stereotypes arise more easily where people those of other faiths rarely have a chance to explain their position.”

Mr Omar Shakour, one of the Muslim leaders who attended the meeting, said: "It was exellent. We had a fantastic meeting and talked about the different faiths.

"We have been holding open days at the Trowbridge Mosque and are inviting people from different ethnic backgrounds to come and join us.

"We would like to get all the different religions together and develop a good relationship with them."