Drama ‘Sun and wind’ – Khayaal Theatre Company

The stage is set in a domestic scene, with washing hung to dry beside a dining table. A clue to the plot is at the side – a wall of slogans such as ‘not in my name’. A mother enters, and is in conversation with a teenage son – invisible to the audience. It becomes clear that it is the 10th anniversary of his father dying as a suicide bomber, while the boy was just a toddler. Both mother and son are still trying to come to terms with this, amid renewed media interest.

To help her son, the mother (played by Eleanor Martin) tells three traditional stories, drawn from Muslim cultures around the world, illustrating how the father’s way, of anger, was not the right way to achieve his goal, and the power of story over dogma. The title story is the familiar one of the sun and wind competing to get a man to take his coat off – with the warmth of the sun winning.

Despite the serious subject, the script, by Luqman Ali, was gentle and entertaining – with puns including ‘console – conning your soul’.

Khayaal is a charitable arts enterprise interpreting classical Muslim world literature to celebrate the universal human dream of virtue. The play was followed by discussion, in which we learned that the play has been widely appreciated by Muslim and Christian audiences, and that the use of stories is re-emerging in parts of the Muslim community.

Final worship

The final service took place in the chapel, where the beamed wooden roof and full-length banner of a gold cross provide a warmer ambience than the conference rooms. It included a specially written hymn by Philip Fox (brother of our president), called ‘We are pilgrims’, so we started by learning this. A puppet sketch presented by the children was also on the theme of pilgrimage, searching for the stairway to heaven. The young people’s presentation linked in with the journey of the soul, and showed points of agreement and disagreement between Christians and Muslims on this. Bible readings were given by overseas students in their own languages. The powerful sermon was followed by communion led by Joshva Rajah, with a welcome dance including Hindu, Muslim and Christian elements performed by a beautifully dressed Indian family.

Despite a few practical hitches, it was a fitting ending to a thought-provoking weekend.

The preacher was Revd Dr Guli Francis-Dehqani, an Anglican priest born in Iran, the daughter of. Muslim convert who became a priest and bishop in the Anglican Church in Iran. Her mother was the daughter and granddaughter of missionaries in Iran. After the Islamic Revolution, in 1979, when Guli was 13, the family moved to England where her father continued to work as Bishop in exile. Ordained in 1998, Guli now writes and speaks on issues concerning women in religion and interfaith studies. Currently she is helping develop a multi faith chaplaincy at the University of Northampton. Guli lives in Oakham, Rutland with her husband Lee, also ordained, and their three children.

Preaching from 2 Corinthians 13:11-13 and Matthew 28:16-20, Guli linked the themes of interfaith dialogue and the Trinity, a challenging task since ‘the doctrine of the Trinity is probably the greatest barrier preventing a Muslim understanding of Christianity.’ Yet, she said, an understanding of the Trinity helps us to encounter and engage with God more fully. The Trinity began as an experience that the disciples felt and believed long before it was formalised into a doctrine. By its very nature it ‘propels us to engage in discussion with others. It requires an attitude of openness to others. ‘Because of it we move closer to those who are different, just as ‘the three persons of the Trinity are each open to the other and in their mutual relationship of love draw all that is beyond into their communion.’

However this was not to be taken lightly. In Iran, since the time of the Islamic Revolution ‘the church has suffered untold persecution, ’ (her own brother was murdered aged 24 because of his association with the church). Christianity that enters into relationship with other faiths need not be watered down to some kind of religious common denominator. We should not be frightened of speaking out against injustice and holding firmly and passionately to our faith. It is the courage of those who do that which ensures the church in Iran continues to exist.

Evangelism and dialogue are not mutually exclusive. Both are linked in the Christian call to engage with the world. Both are needed for a full expression of our encounter with the other. Indeed if separated they are no longer true to the very source that inspires and gives rise to them – the Trinitarian God.

Top of Page