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London Carmelites join in Iftar meal during Ramadan
03 August 2012

The convenors of London's Carmelite Spirituality Group, 'Carmel in the City', Sylvia Lucas and Martin Pendergast, along with friends, were invited to the Citizens' Iftar which was held in the capital on the evening of Thursday 2nd August to mark the mid-point in the Islamic month of Ramadan, the Olympics, and the '100 Days of Peace'.

Carmelites and friends at the Citizens' Iftar.

It was an opportunity for members of the Carmelite Family to participate in Interfaith Encounter and Dialogue in London, and to join with other organisations and individuals committed to promoting justice, peace and the integrity of Creation.

Fasting (Saum) is one of the 'Five Pillars' of Islam, and the holy month of Ramadan is the prescribed period in which able Muslims are expected to fast between the hours of dawn and sunset. Iftar is the name given to the meal which is taken after breaking the fast. Sharing this meal is believed by Muslims to have special significance, and it is celebrated wherever possible with the community.

Around 500 guests who are all active community leaders, were invited from across the community of the City of London and the East End to be guests of the Muslim community at a venue in Bethnal Green just a mile from the Olympic Park.

Many of the guests are contributing to the Olympic and Paralympic Games as volunteers or are working with Citizen’s groups - in the spirit of the games and the holy month of Ramadan - to bring leaders, neighbours, traders and families together to strengthen relationships across the diversity of the community in order to promote greater peace and understanding on London’s streets.

Guests were welcomed by the local Catholic parish priest, Assumptionist priest Fr. Tom O’Brien, A.A. (from the Church of Our Lady of the Assumption, Bethnal Green), the Mayor of Tower Hamlets, Rushanara Ali (M.P. for Bethnal Green & Bow), and Dame Tessa Jowell, M.P. (Shadow Olympics Minister).

Representatives of all the major faith communities, including Rt. Rev. Adrian Newman (Bishop of Stepney) and Rabbi Jonathan Wittenburg, signed a statement of commitment to peace which is at the heart of all major faiths.

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 (Chair of the London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games) and Mayor of London, Boris Johnson.

Local leaders joined Catholic layman Barry Mizen - who founded the Jimmy Mizen Foundation in memory of his young son who was murdered - in celebrating their achievements so far.

Barry Mizen addressing those gathered at the Iftar.

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 London Legacy Development Corporation to ensure that land available for housing on the Olympic Park site includes Community Land Trusts which will ensure affordable homes for local families in perpetuity.

After the celebration of these achievements, sunset was welcomed with the recitation of verses from the Quran, and the fast was broken with water and dates. After prayers a meal provided by a local restaurant was shared.

Source & photography: Sylvia Lucas; Independent Catholic News