A prominent Kirk minister has spoken of the importance of working alongside different faiths after a unique trip to Ghana exploring Muslim-Christian relations.
Very Rev Dr Susan Brown was part of a group of 12 representatives of each of the two faiths from across Scotland during a nine-day visit arranged by the Church of Scotland.
The Dornoch-based minister, who is also convener of the Kirk’s World Mission Council said: “We were strongly encouraged to see how people managed to co-exist in Ghana whatever their faith background.
“In Ghana there is an emphasis on looking at your common humanity before looking at your differences.
“Here we have a tendency to concentrate on our differences – we see people in their different clothes and make a judgement.
“It’s important not to look at the clothes, but to look at the individual. In a world that often condemns religion, we need to stick together.
“We need to live and express the love we say we believe in. That’s not to underplay the fact that we are different.
“When we lose that starting point of respect, that’s when we go into our corners and come out fighting – whether we’re people of faith or not.”
The West African country was chosen for the visit because around 72% of the population is Christian, with Muslims making up a further 16%, and the two groups have better relations in Ghana than in many countries in the region.
Those who took part from Scotland, included prison chaplains of both faiths, community activists, and a Muslim scholar, and each worked in a pair exploring issues around education, civil representation, prison chaplaincy and gender justice.
For Dr Brown, one of the highlights was meeting His Eminence Sheikh Dr Osmanu Nuhu Sharubutu, the chief imam of Ghana, who has dedicated his life to promoting good relations between faiths.
Speaking about the encounter, she said: “It was like meeting royalty and was an unexpected privilege.
“The fact he marked his 100th birthday in a Catholic Cathedral was remarkable – it was the embodiment of the belief he has held all his life.”
Another highlight was “the people we travelled with – our fellow Scots of different faiths – as along the bumpy bus rides, it was the conversations that allowed acquaintances to become friends.”
Dr Brown declared that visiting Elmina Castle, where slaves were held before being taken to America, had a deep impact on her.
She said: “Visiting the castle was stark, humbling and a deeply ashamed moment.”