Old Teachings on New Questions
Islam and Christianity contain within their scriptures and normative writings a wealth of teachings that guide and regulate attitudes towards key moments of life, its beginning, its end, and the relationships that give it much of its meaning.
Advances in scientific research and technological sophistication in recent decades have raised totally new possibilities for deciding about birth and death. It is now a relatively simple matter to choose when and how to have children, and when and how to die. At the same time, changes in social relationships and the expectations surrounding them have given rise to new attitudes to marriage, partnership, the family and community. All these changes challenge the received teachings of the faiths.
What do these received teachings say about the changes that affect human beings at important points in their lives? Can they be brought into relationship with current medical research and prevailing social norms? If so, how?
In order to map the problems and to begin to search for answers, a series of three annual interfaith round-table discussions is proposed. They are sponsored and hosted jointly by Al-Mahdi Institute of Islamic Studies, Birmingham, UK, the Centre for the Study of Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations, University of Birmingham, UK, and the UNESCO Chair for Human Rights, Peace and Democracy, Shahid Beheshti University, Tehran, Iran.
The first round-table discussion will be held in Birmingham on 12-14 February 2004. Its theme will be New Approaches to Conception and Birth: Challenges for Christians and Muslims.
The discussion will be hosted by the Al-Mahdi Institute, Birmingham over three days, Thursday afternoon to Saturday morning, 12-14 February 2004.
There will be four sessions, each lasting 4 hours, including a refreshment and prayer break. The fourth session will be a general discussion.
The first three sessions will comprise three 30-40 minute papers from religious and medical practitioners, with time for questions and some comment on the following themes:
· Differing perceptions of foetal development and personhood
·Sources and methods of decision-making about conception and
● Religious responses to medical advances concerning birth