Sharing can lead the way to tolerance
We live in an age of growing individualism. Actually talking, face to face with real people, appears to be optional rather than absolutely necessary.
PlayStations and Xboxes, Satellite TV and the internet, acting in a pincer movement, resources combined, enabling us to wallow in our own privacy, in our own virtual world.
We are intoxicated with the worldwide web, which has increasingly become our source for news and views, opinions and facts; our basis for what we think of others, of the world around us.
We will use any excuse that enables not to have to interact with others. Take swine flu, for example.
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One sneeze at school and the classroom empties quicker than you can even say "bless you".
It is a refreshing change then, when, despite all the apparently overwhelming demands on our daily lives, a group of people, in this case Muslim and Christians, take the time to come together and learn about each other.
To explore each other's beliefs, views, priorities and lives. I had the opportunity to take part in one such refreshing dialogue on Sunday here in Easton in Bristol.
The dialogue was not groundbreaking, or headline making, perhaps it will not even be important to anyone except those who were there.
But it was, in its own small way, an attempt to put the brakes on.
As the world around us hurtles towards seclusion, to division, to mistrust, to suspicion of everything they do not know, many more small gatherings like this will be needed to slow what I personally view as the breakneck speed of an otherwise downward spiral into selfishness.
The subject of Sunday, with many more planned in the future, was about the importance of pilgrimage in both traditions. There was much in common between the two faiths, and surprisingly little difference.
For me and everyone else who was there, it only increased the thirst for such dialogue sessions in the future.
These sessions, and others like it, have tremendous potential to overcome the walls of mistrust that we are all guilty to some extent, of having built around us.
Last year, for example, it was exactly a dialogue of the this kind that led, for the first time in the history of the Muslim community here in Bristol, to the Imam of the Easton Mosque inviting the Minister of the Baptist Church opposite, to deliver the Friday sermon to the Muslims that had filled the mosque to beyond capacity.
I remember then how all the Muslims commented as they left, "it's about time we had this kind of thing going on".
There is much we all have in common. There is much we can all share.
There is much we can all learn from each other. It is only when we allow our ignorance to fuel our fears that our respect for other human beings becomes less than it should be.
In the Quran, God says: "I have made you into nations and tribes, so that you may come to know one another, (and not despise one another)"
It is in exploring our very differences that our own life's journey eventually becomes a pilgrimage to tolerance.