Some of the brightest and best students of Islam in Britain round off their education at the Cambridge Muslim College, which aims to train the next generation of British Muslim leaders. Towards the end of their course, the students (some of them trainee imams) step out of their Islamic comfort zone to experience something which is quite new to most: they immerse themselves in the faith and culture of the world’s largest Christian church during a trip to Rome and the Vatican.
In this edition of Heart and Soul, produced by the Things Unseen team for the BBC World Service, Abdul-Rehman Malik travels with the group as they visit some of the Catholic world’s most important sites, and accompanies them during their meetings with ordinary and not-so-ordinary Catholics.
How, he asks, will they respond to attending mass for the first time, and to the majesty and vastness of St Peter’s Basilica? What will they make of their meeting with a lively and enthusiastic cloistered nun, or the infectious passion for astronomy displayed by Br Guy Consolmagno, the director of the Vatican Observatory? And will all that pale into insignificance on the last day, when they come face to face with Pope Francis?
The programme examines how these encounters challenge and change the Muslim students’ perceptions of Christianity, and what they will be taking away for their future work among Britain’s Muslim communities.