From Edmund Burke, Quaker Chaplain:
Last Saturday, at the Friends Meeting House, Ruth and I, with some others, met Dr Inderjit Bhogal, the new leader of the Corrymeela Community. This, briefly, is an interdenominational group, founded in Northern Ireland in the 1960s, to promote mutual understanding and tolerance between the Catholic and Protestant elements, historically at odds with each other. And its headquarters on the north Irish coast became a centre of peace and security where they could meet. Even the name ‘Corrymeela’ has a promising interpretation, ‘hill of harmony’.
Inderjit’s position is unusual. He is the first leader of the Community who isn’t Irish, and whose religious background was neither Catholic nor Protestant, but Sikh. But as the child of immigrants to England, and at one time the only dark-skinned, turban-wearing boy in his school class, he made early acquaintance with prejudice and hostility.
In the absence of a Sikh temple he found an alternative place of worship at a local Methodist chapel. Two things there were decisive for his future, the simple friendliness of his welcome, and his discovery, as he put it, of Jesus as someone emphatically on the side of the rejected and marginalised. So he began a pilgrimage which led him to an acceptance of Christian faith, while retaining a deep respect for his Sikh origins; to the Methodist ministry, with a term as president of the Methodist Conference; and finally to Corrymeela.
A roundabout way of getting there, but in retrospect an appropriate one. The level of sectarian violence has, mercifully, diminished, but there are still many wounds to heal, and wrongs to be forgiven, on both sides. And like mainland Britain, the country has seen an influx of immigrants and asylum seekers with many different languages, creeds and customs. With them, sadly but inevitably, have come new occasions for prejudice, suspicion, resentment. So Corrymeela’s task of reconciliation is still far from finished.
Inderjit sums up his own approach:
Loyalty to Jesus goes hand in hand with openness to people of other faiths, and the searching challenges they present to Christianity.
He had come to ask for our prayers and our support.