We welcome a wonderfully wide variety of people to St Chrysostom’s. Hospitality is a centrepoint of our church life. Today it was a delight to welcome Persian friends to church today, for a special gathering. Dr Soroush Dabbagh, an Iranian academic currently working at the University of Toronto, gave a lecture. Dr Dabbagh is an outstanding scholar, a well known speaker – and also a devotee of poetry.
He spoke, in Farsi, of the importance of tolerance in Islam. He talked of the different forms of expression found in Islam and of the value of respecting and appreciating difference.
Fr Ian spoke (briefly, in English!) words of welcome and emphasised the importance of listening to the views of others, giving space for difference, and being true to the light which enlightens all.
St Chrysostom’s was thanked for being a place of openness and diversity.
Many of those present value the Sufi tradition of Islam which places a high value on a close, direct and personal relationship with God – the tradition is often described as mystical.
After Dr Dabbagh’s talk the Sahba Music Ensemble sang Sufi poetry and other songs in a distinct and beautiful Persian style. The music performed gently, but with passion, conveyed a spirituality of the heart. One of the songs was of the renowned Sufi poet and mystic Rumi whose words have given inspiration to Christians as well as Muslims.
Elsewhere Dr Dabbagh has spoken highly of the modern Iranian poet and artist Sohrab Sepehri (1928-1980), whose love of humanity and nature suffuse his poetry and art. Gathered at St Chrysostom’s this evening one could not help thinking that a sharing of the words of mystics by people of differing faiths would enrich one another’s spiritual life and insight.
A poem of Sohrab Sepehri:
I am a Moslem
My Mecca is a rose
My mosque is a spring, my prayer stone the light
Fields make my prayer rug
I make ablution with the heartbeat of the windows
Moonlight flows through my prayers, the spectrum too
My Kaaba lies by the water,
My Kaaba lies under the acacias.
My Kaaba travels like the breeze,
From one garden to the next,
From one town to another…
The Kaaba, it will be recalled, is the cube-shaped building, which is the holiest site for Muslims, in which direction they face during prayers.