Eternity – What’s Next? Faith leaders reflect
Ahead of an interfaith event on the subject of eternity, the Archbishop of Birmingham discusses the importance of interreligious dialogue, and offers some personal reflections on the subject of life after death.
Faith leaders from six different religious traditions are coming together in Birmingham, UK, on Thursday to reflect on the subject of ‘Eternity – What’s Next?’.
Representatives of the Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu, Sikh, Islamic and Christian faiths will speak at the event.
Among them will be Archbishop Bernard Longley of the Catholic Archdiocese of Birmingham, who spoke to Vatican News about the upcoming event, the importance of interfaith dialogue, and his own personal reflections on the topic of eternity.
Archbishop Longley stressed the significance of the interreligious dimension of the event, noting that the city of Birmingham is “in a very privileged position” given the wide variety of faith communities it is home to.
Part of this diversity, he emphasized, is the Birmingham Faith Leaders Group, a network established in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks in New York, and still active to this day.
The interreligious nature of Thursday’s event, Archbishop Longley emphasised, is an opportunity to “share our faith with others”, but also to “learn, in the presence of one another, something about others' beliefs, and to see how that connects with our own belief in eternal life.”
Interreligiosity as witness
A further benefit of the interreligious format of the event, the Archbishop said, is that it is a way to attract the attention of those without a religious affiliation.
“When,” he said, “people who have no faith see that the members of different faiths are keen to work together, and – insofar as we can –witness alongside one another to the common values that we share, then it awakens an interest.”
“We're certainly not in any sense seeking to proselytise,” Archbishop Longley stressed, “but we want to demonstrate our faith, and the respect our six faith communities share, in a public way.”
One of the topics under discussion at Thursday’s event will be: “How can a knowledge of eternity help us to live our life now?”
In answering this question, Archbishop Longley planning to reflect on Jesus' teaching about the Kingdom of God.
Christ taught us, the Archbishop said, that the Kingdom of God is already among us. This “opens our eyes to the true beauty of human life as it is today”, in that we can already “see glimpses of the Kingdom” in our day-to-day lives.
“In our experiences of individual people”, Archbishop Longley concluded, “and the goodness of their lives, the integrity of the truths that they follow, the way in which they behave to one another, we can experience something of the peace, the justice, and the love of God's kingdom here in this life.”