How faiths in Bolton need to unite following killing of Lee Rigby
After the tragic death of Drummer Lee Rigby, the need for different faiths to work together has never been stronger. Reporter Melanie Wallwork talks to an interfaith leader.
FOLLOWING the attack, which shocked the world on May 22, Bolton Interfaith Council and faith leaders in the town were quick to speak out against the atrocity.
And, on a daily basis, its members work towards promoting harmony, understanding and co-operation across Bolton, particularly with issues relating to faith and belief.
Chan Parmar, strategic officer at the interfaith council, based at The Bolton Hub, in Bold Street, said: “The core values in every faith are the same. We are neighbourly, brotherly, caring, compassionate, understanding, sharing, about having a peaceful community in which there is trust and friendship.
“I think we have to be real and we know there may be difficulties that happen for a number of reasons.
“If something happens such as the tragic events in Woolwich, it has an impact all over the country.”
Bolton Interfaith Council has representatives from all major faith communities in Bolton, working with Christian churches, Bolton Council of Mosques and Bolton Hindu Forum, as well as Bolton Council and the police.
Sgt Rob Knight, who worked for Bolton police for more than 10 years, covering Deane and Rumworth, before joining the Manchester-based counter terrorism branch five months ago, is a member of the interfaith council’s executive board.
He said: “As a police force, you’re very keen to be in touch with your local communities. It’s about getting to know communities, having trust to keep everyone safe.
“If people feel like they can trust the police then you’re going to have a much better relationship, both in terms of having the confidence to report things and getting help and working together to deal with problems.”
Another important role of the interfaith council is organising faith trails — a visit to a number of places of worship in Bolton.
Sgt Knight said: “If everyone went on a faith trial and had the opportunity to go into a church, temple, a mosque, have that bit of education, and see it’s welcoming, there’s nothing to hide. I honestly think that Bolton would be a better place.”
Almost 4,600 people went on a faith trail in 2011/12, 95 per cent of them schoolchildren, as well as visitors from areas which do not have the same racial diversity, such as the Lake District and Morecambe, and people who have just arrived in Bolton, from places including Sudan, Ethiopia, Ivory Coast, Congo, Syria and Eastern Europe.
Further recognising the value of working with young people, the interfaith council has a young ambassadors group, made up of about 18 girls and they hope to start one for boys, subject to funding Zunairah Malik, aged 15, and Meera Solanki, aged 15, have been young ambassadors for four years, despite apprehensions about joining the group.
Meera, who lives in Great Lever, said: “I’ve done many different events, such as the Spirit of Bolton, we raised money for the British Red Cross after the Pakistan floods. We did a 5km run for Bolton Hospice. I’ve gained lots of experience and confidence to do public speaking. Also, I think I’ve developed myself as a good leader as well.”
Other events include a dance performance at the Olympic Torch relay and the Christmas lights switch-on. Zunairah, who lives in Westhoughton, said: “I had no confidence and now I’m in performances in front of people, speaking in front of people and communicating. I’m really thankful for that.”
There are also five volunteers, helping with a range of tasks, from the day-to-day running of the interfaith council to choreographing dance routines for events. Anna Kinley, from Halliwell, has been a volunteer for four years and her grand-daughter, Charlotte, aged 12, is an ambassador.
Earlier this year, she was one of a group of three that went on a three-week charity trip to India where they met babies with AIDS, homeless people, children on the streets, drug addicts, as young as five, and alcoholics.
For information go to boltoninterfaithcouncil.org.uk.
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