BOLTON’S annual Interfaith Week saw communities coming together to learn about and celebrate the town’s diverse religious groups.

Aimed at finding new ways to unite communities, it is designed to promote a sense of unity.

Mr Chan Parmar, spokesman for Bolton Interfaith Council, which organises the event, said: “We are all aware of the many challenging issues which divide people – rising hate crime, terrorism, human trafficking and many more - which will always test the strength of the communities and the government.

“Fortunately, what we see through the platform of interfaith work is the unity and goodness of people right across the spectrum, locally and nationally.

“Time and again we see the humanitarian values – kindness, compassion, caring, humility, sharing, generosity, respect and unity in the community.

“We saw this in recent terror attacks in our country and the Manchester attack in particular highlighted many positives in our community.”

The week began with Remembrance Sunday where representatives of the Intefaith Council laid a wreath.

An “Open Day” was held at Bolton Central Library on the Monday and featured displays by Bolton Christian Community Cohesion, Bolton Council of Mosques, Bolton Hindu Forum and Bolton Interfaith Forum.

Mr Parmar said: “A common comment was there should be more working together. It was pleasing to hear that people valued the working together in Bolton.”

On Tuesday there was a Faith Trail which saw 120 students from Bolton Muslim Girls School visiting Swaminaryan Mandir, Emmanuel Church and finally Zakariyya Mosque.

The students also completed written pieces of work around the importance of young people being engaged in interfaith activities.

Mr Parmar said: “The concept of young people widening their knowledge and understanding about other faiths and cultures is vital for the future.”

A Unity in the Community event was led by the Asian Elders Resource Centre and celebrated Eid, Diwali and Advent.

It also featured community stalls, entertainment and messages of interfaith work by 50 children from Brandwood Community Primary School.

On Thursday it was the much awaited Passport to Faiths and Food Share, which saw children from 11 schools learning the basics of eight faiths, singing and sharing food together.

Mr Parvar said: “We had 11 diverse schools with almost 120 pupils participating. The eight faith groups were Bhai’, Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Jainism, Judaism and Sikhism.

“Each pupil had a passport which was stamped by each faith group. It was a wonderful opportunity and the children kept their passport as a memory.”

Afterwards, the children sang songs and read poetry in the presence of the Mayor of Bolton, Cllr Elaine Sherrington, and the Chief Executive of Bolton Council, Tony Oakham.

Mr Parvar said: “Seeing the children from very diverse schools coming together with smiles on their faces learning about faiths, dancing, singing and sharing food was a sight to be remembered.”

A multi-cultural music concert was held on Friday evening in Victoria Hall.

Mr Parmar said: “It was a simply amazing event to end the week in a very fitting manner.”

Among the performers were a pipe band, young girls from Ephrata Church performing African dances, Melbourne Road

Church Choir, girls from Swaminarayan Mandir performing cultural dances b, children from Bishop Bridgeman CE School and Tabla players from North Western Asian Arts in fusion with Swaminrayan Mandir.

The evening was supported by the “Lights Festival” in Bolton and attended by almost 230 people.

Mr Parvar said: “For me, this event summed up the strength of interfaith and partnership work locally as many people from various backgrounds contributed to the concert in many ways and made it into a very memorable event.”

In total, the week featured 30 groups, seven venues, 12 schools, 380 students and 370 adults.

“For me, interfaith work is about bringing like-minded people together for the benefit of our communities, locally and nationally,” said Mr Parmar.

“This was an excellent week due to good partnership working and genuine commitment from members of our Bolton family.

“On behalf of Bolton Interfaith Council, my sincere thanks and appreciation go out to everyone.”