Faith leaders unite at town’s Islamic centre

Anglican Bishop of Portsmouth, Rt Rev Christopher Foster with Sheikh Fazle Abbas Datoo, imam of the Wessex Jamaat Community.
Anglican Bishop of Portsmouth, Rt Rev Christopher Foster with Sheikh Fazle Abbas Datoo, imam of the Wessex Jamaat Community.
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THE leaders of two faith groups have met to plant a tree at an Islamic centre.

The Anglican Bishop of Portsmouth, Rt Rev Christopher Foster, was given a tour of the new Al Mahdi Centre on Fontley Road in Funtley, near Fareham.

He met with the imam, Sheikh Fazle Abbas Datoo, and other members of the Wessex Jamaat Community.

The pair talked about interfaith matters and said a prayer of blessing before planting a tree in the grounds.

Bishop Christopher said: ‘This is an impressive building and I was delighted to be given the chance to see it with colleagues.

‘We are grateful for the community’s hospitality and their desire for interfaith dialogue.

‘Members of the Wessex Jamaat Community have had strong links with our cathedral for several years.’

He added the two faiths can work together while still having differences.

‘It was good to be able to sit around a table and think about the areas in which people of faith might work together,’ he said. ‘Clearly there are areas where we won’t agree.

‘But both Christians and Muslims are committed to helping to transform society for the better.’

Sheikh Fazle Abbas echoed his counterpart’s words.

He said: ‘This is a unique opportunity for the community to receive our friends at Al Mahdi centre, which is an innovative and eco-friendly landmark.

‘This visit paves further a path of amity, friendship, brotherhood and collaboration.’

The centre is the home of the Wessex Jamaat Community, which was formed in 1982.

Its external façade was inspired by the neighbouring 12th century Titchfield Abbey.

It will be used for worship, learning and social events.

The Wessex Jamaat community was founded in Portsmouth by a group of Shia Muslims who came from Tanzania to study as students.

At first functions were held in a flat in Portsmouth.

The community grew and opened its first Al Mahdi centre in Wickham in 1993, using a converted bungalow for worship, education, charity work and children’s work.

The five-acre site was bought in 2008, and the foundation stone was laid in 2011.