On Sunday 26 June, The Muslim Jewish Forum of Greater Manchester (MJF) and Faith Network 4 Manchester (FN4M) organised their join annual Iftar. An iftar is the meal held at the end of a day of fasting during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
This time the event was kindly hosted by Cheadle Mosque & Community Centre. It was also supported by the Greater Manchester Police as part of the #WeStandTogether initiative.
Over a hundred people from many faith backgrounds attended the event, with very strong representation from the congregation of Yeshurun Synagogue in Cheadle.
The audience was warmly welcomed by Rev Bob Day (Chair of FN4M), Councillor Heather Fletcher (Co-Chair of MJF) and Arshad Sheikh (Administrator of Cheadle Mosque). Mr Sheikh gave a clear and informative presentation with PowerPoint slides about the history of the mosque, its activities with the wider Cheadle community, the Islamic calendar, and the way that Muslims fast during daylight hours for the month of Ramadan.
Speakers from other faiths talked about whether their religious tradition includes fasting, and if so how it is practiced:
Ms May Yau – Buddhism
Rabbi Chanan Atlas – Judaism
Rev Bob Day – Christianity
Mr Grange Williams – Baha’i
Mr Hani Singh – Sikhism
The event was well supported by civic representatives, including Cheadle MP Mary Robinson. Short speeches on the need for unity and praising the strength Manchester gains from diversity were given by:
the Lord Mayor of Manchester Cllr Carl Austin-Behan
the Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Ian Hopkins
the Greater Manchester Police and Crime Commissioner and Interim Mayor Tony Lloyd.
Votes of thanks were given by Qaisra Shahraz (Vice Chair of FN4M), Mohammed Amin MBE (Co-Chair of the MJF) and Farah Arshad of Cheadle Mosque.
All the guests broke their fasts on dates and water in the traditional way and were then treated to halal Moroccan or kosher meals. There was a warm and friendly atmosphere throughout the evening.
Rabbi Chanan Atlas of Yeshurun Synagogue said “Tonight was a meaningful expression of tolerance. We all believe in different religions; have our own set of dogma or lack thereof; some of our convictions do contradict each other’s. Yet despite all that, our humanity, civility and shared values unite us in our call for tolerance and cooperation. I thank Cheadle Mosque and its leaders from the bottom of my heart for their welcoming and gracious hospitality. May this beautiful evening serve as an example for good interfaith relations.”
Greater Manchester Police and Crime Commissioner and Interim Mayor Tony Lloyd said: “I am here at the Cheadle Mosque for the multifaith event. This is a great event bringing together people from many different traditions. It is important that we do learn from each other because, frankly, as communities we are stronger when we recognise each other and we stand together.”
Greater Manchester Chief Constable Ian Hopkins said “The event here at Cheadle Mosque this evening is really important. It helps communities to understand the differences that we all have and therefore to overcome intolerance and to prevent hate. I think it is really important that individually and collectively we all take away the learning from tonight and share that with friends and families. This has been a lovely evening where people have been so welcoming to me and particularly the people here at Cheadle Mosque have been so energetic and enthusiastic about telling us about the great work that they do here in the community.”
The Lord Mayor of Manchester Cllr Carl Austin-Behan said “I think this is a fantastic way to celebrate Ramadan here with all the different faiths together. We are working with the Muslim and Jewish communities. It is important to remember all the different faith organisations that are out there. Tonight shows that we have got various people here all celebrating, talking together and mixing with each other.”
Grange Williams from the Bahai’i community said “I think it is one of the best interfaith gatherings that I have seen. The camaraderie and the mixing is amazing and in a holy place like a mosque is fantastic.”
Buddhist speaker Ms May Yau said “I thought it was fabulous that we could learn about different religious fasting traditions. The event brought us all together to deepen our understanding of each other. Our hearts are connected even though we pray differently. Fundamentally, we are all the same; as Buddhists we respect other beliefs, because all people want to live in peace and harmony together.”
Rep Council Chairman, Jonny Wineberg said: “Such a show of unity across faiths, at a time when discord in being seen across the country, is so important. Huge credit should go to the Cheadle Muslim Association and the many other Mosques who have opened their doors to their neighbours over Ramadan. Similarly, it was wonderful to see the response from Yeshurun Synagogue, with their Rabbi and many members participating as part of a strong Jewish presence.