We learn to love each other when we break bread together

Original article published on 7th May 2019

Holding the first ever interfaith youth iftar at St Paul’s Cathedral has come to mean so much, in the wake of the tragic attacks on Christian, Muslim and Jewish worshippers across the globe recently. Now, more than ever before, faith and non-faith communities must rally around one another, break bread and engage in social action together to strengthen our communities. The same old statements of support are no longer enough. Real action is now required.

St Paul’s is a fitting location for such an event — and all the more poignant, given the recent fire at Notre-Dame in Paris. Built out of the ashes of London after the Great Fire of 1666 ravaged the city, it is a symbol of hope, renewal and rebirth for all Londoners.

For Muslims, Ramadan can also be seen as a time of renewal: to reaffirm the covenant made with God that entreats us to love for our neighbours what we love for ourselves. These first 10 days of Ramadan are known as the days of mercy. It is a mercy that Muslims are compelled to enact — as the Prophet said: “Have mercy on those on the Earth, so the One in the Heavens may have mercy on you.”

It is easy to think this is a mercy that is absent from our world at the moment. Yet, in the very centre of the storm, we can see the possibility of a different world. Bringing young people of all faiths and none together over food breeds not only common understanding and tolerance, but also, if allowed to flourish, mercy and love between them.

It is apt then that this event is being organised with the City of London Corporation. At once a beacon of progress and innovation as well as tradition and custom, the city holds the memory of where London has come from, but also embraces the future. Young people representing every London borough will be at the iftar later today, hearing from the Bishop of London alongside the Mayor of London, and later joined, at the Guildhall, by the Chief Rabbi.

London’s youth will share their experiences and struggles and present their ideas to our faith and political leaders to tell them how they think we can build a stronger and more cohesive London for all. With a message of hope and mercy, it will be for these young people to forge a way forward for our city and nation — to decide upon and then shape what kind of world they want to live in.

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