Around 500 guests of all faiths were invited by the Muslim community and London Citizens to take part in an Iftar celebration last night in Bethnal Green, East London, to mark the mid point of the Islamic month of Ramadan, the Olympics and 100 Days of Peace. Iftar the meal taken by Muslims after breaking their dawn to sunset Ramadan fast. Sharing this meal with others has special significance and it is celebrated wherever possible with the community.
Guests were welcomed to the York Hall - an historic boxing venue just a mile from the Olympic Park - by local Parish Priest, Fr Tom O’Brien from the church of Our Lady of the Assumption, Bethnal Green, the Mayor of Tower Hamlets, Rushanara Ali MP for Bethnal Green and Bow and Dame Tessa Jowell MP, Shadow Olympics Minister.
During the evening, representatives of all the faith communities, including Rt Rev Adrian Newman, Bishop of Stepney and Rabbi Jonathan Wittenburg, signed up to a statement of commitment to peace which is at the heart of all our faiths. Catholic guests included: Carmel in the City convenors, Sylvia Lucas and Martin Pendergast, Sr Helena McGilly, RSC and Patrick Osekwu from St Joseph's Hospice, Hackney, Sisters of Mercy Bridie Healy, Brigid Collins and Maria Fay, from Clapton, St John's Wood and Bow and Judy Masters, Pastoral Co-ordinator at Holy Apostles, Pimlico.
The evening included a series of short lively presentations from sporting organisations - including an impressive performance from footballer freestyler Colin Nell. Many of the guests are contributing to the Olympic Games as volunteers or working with Citizen’s groups to strengthen relationships across the diversity of the community in order to promote greater peace and understanding on London’s streets.
The London CitySafe Campaign is an integral part of the 100 Days of Peace, where young people and adults work together on initiatives to encourage local businesses and organisations to offer their premises as CitySafe Havens. It has the backing of Lord Sebastian Coe and Mayor of London, Boris Johnson. Local leaders joined Barry Mizen, who founded the Jimmy Mizen Trust in memory of his young son who was murdered, in celebrating their achievements so far.
London Citizens’ have also worked with Lord Coe and the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games, LOCOG, to get contractors to pay the London Living Wage and to ensure training and job opportunities for local people. They are now negotiating with The Legacy Company to ensure that land available for housing on the Olympic site includes Community Land Trusts which will ensure affordable homes for local families in
After the celebration of these achievements, sunset was welcomed with the recitation of verses from the Qur'an and the fast was broken with water and dates. After prayers, a delicious meal, generously provided by a local restaurant, was shared and there was time to socialize.
For more information on 1oo Days of Peace see: www.peacelegacy.org.uk/
To find out more about London Citizens go to: www.citizensuk.org/
(Thanks to Sylvia Lucas for sharing her report)
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