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Speech by Professor Sir Nasser David Khalili at the launch of Interfaith Explorers, London Central Mosque

Your Royal Highness, Your Graces, Your Excellencies, My Lords, Ladies and Gentleman, and young Interfaith Explorers.

As a Jew born in a Muslim country, I have always had a personal interest in interfaith understanding. In 1995, I founded the Maimonides Foundation, one of the first interfaith organisations, with the express desire of fostering understanding and co-operation between Jews, Christians, and Muslims through cultural and academic programmes.

The three Abrahamic faiths, which represent the beliefs of over half the world, share more commonality than differences. For example, they all believe in the same God and yet in a recent survey only 29% of young adults were aware of this.

I have come to realise that the only way we can tackle misinformation and misunderstanding between, and about, the three faiths is by approaching it at grass roots level. After all, when it rains the water does not gather on the top of the mountain, you find it at the foot of the mountain.

It has always been my belief that the real weapon of mass destruction is ignorance, and if ignorance is the problem then surely education must be the solution. By engaging with children between the ages of 10 and 11, we have the opportunity to enable them to find out for themselves that there is far more that unites us than divides us. We hope that this resource will give children a moral compass and the language for dialogue and harmony, which is so desperately needed, in our complex world.

Today, following a series of pilot studies in schools in cities such as Manchester and Peterborough, we are launching Maimonides Interfaith Explorers, a new learning resource which gives school children the chance to find out more about the three Abrahamic faiths.

Interfaith Explorers promotes respect and understanding amongst pupils, encouraging them to discuss and understand the different cultures and beliefs they will encounter throughout their school and adult life.

It is a six-week programme created by the Maimonides Foundation with expert support from EdisonLearning. This great learning resource is being made available to all 18,500 primary schools in England and Wales and is recommended to be used for children in their last year of primary school.

I had the privilege of visiting some of the schools and meeting some of the teachers, and, most importantly, the pupils. It was wonderful to see the project in action.

I am delighted that Interfaith Explorers has the support of leaders from the three Abrahamic faiths and that some of you are here today.

I feel passionately that through this resource, young people will have a chance to better understand each other whether they are of these faiths, others or none.

In short, our message is simple: I learn about your faith, your way of life, your traditions, and your culture and respect them. Equally, you learn about my faith, my way of life, my traditions, and my culture, and respect them too.

Many people have asked me: David, why now?
This year we celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of Her Majesty The Queen. For 60 years she has presided over a realm and Commonwealth that embraces many faiths. It is following her example, and in tribute to her, that I commissioned the Maimonides Interfaith Explorers Learning Resource.

I’d like to conclude with a beautiful poem by the Persian Poet Jami, which encapsulates my vision of the future for Interfaith.

Each tinted fragment sparkles in the sun
A thousand colours, but the light is one.