CAIRO - Setting example for religious coexistence, a Scottish church has become the first in the UK to share its premises with Muslims after mosque proved to be too small for worshippers.
Religion does not play a role when it comes to friendship and hospitality, the rector of St John's church, Rev Isaac Poobalan told The Guardian.
They transcend the religious divide.
With a growing Muslim population in Aberdeen, the building which was established as a mosque in 1980s was proving too small for worshippers.Muslims Bring Hope to Scotland
After three decades of building Syed Shah Mustafa Jame Masjid mosque on the grounds of St John's Church at St John's Place, off Crown Street it was too small to host up to 200 Muslim worshippers in its small prayer room.
If they all squeezed in very tightly about 60 or 70 people could fit inside, said Poobolan.
Rev Poobalan said today that he would not be true to his faith if he did not offer to help.
Seeing Muslim worshippers praying in the streets, he decided to hand over part of the church hall to Chief Imam Ahmed Megharbi.
Now, St John's Episcopal Church in Aberdeen welcomes hundreds of Muslims praying five times a day in their building.
One day when I was walking past the mosque, I found 20 or 30 people outside on the ground around the pavements with their hands and feet exposed. You could see their breath, Rev Poobolan said.
When I spoke to people at the church about the situation, someone actually said to me this was not our problem, but I had seen it with my own eyes, so it was a problem.
Growing up in India, Rev Poobalan, 50, had many Muslim and Hindu friends.
Relations with Muslims in India helped break down the divide for worshippers of two religions praying together in Aberdeen.
His church is part of the Scottish Episcopal Church, which belongs to the Anglican Communion and not the Church of Scotland.
Scotland is home to more than 500,000 Muslims, making up less than one percent of the population.
Muslims are the second largest religious group in the country, which has thirty mosques.
The decision to share prayer place between Muslims and Christians reflected a close friendship which developed over the past years between the two faiths in Aberdeen.
What happens here is special and there should be no problem repeating this across the country, Sheikh Ahmed Megharbi of the Syed Shah Mustafa Jame Masjid mosque told the Daily Mail.
The relationship is friendly and respectful.
The two faiths have been working closely together in Aberdeen for several years.
On Christmas Eve 2010 the church and the mosque held simultaneous prayers and then both opened their doors to provide food for local people.
On 11 September 2011, Poobalan and the chief imam held a joint service, and together read from scriptures of the Bible and the Qur'an, commemorating the 10th anniversary of the US terrorist attacks.
We had the sense that we were in this together and we really wanted to convey the message that, if we are genuinely seeking peace, we had to work together and pray together, Poobalan told The Guardian.
The Bishop of Aberdeen and Orkney, the Right Rev Dr Robert Gillies, praised the relationship as an example for the whole world.
Internationally, the news speaks of tension and struggles between Islam and Christianity, Rev Gillies said.
Yet, here in Aberdeen, a mosque and a church have built bonds of affection and friendship.
It must be stressed that neither has surrendered or compromised any aspect of the historic faith to which each holds. But mutual hospitality and goodwill exists.
Reproduced with permission from OnIslam.net