Ramadan Community Cohesion Project

BLACKBURN COMMUNITY JOINS MUSLIMS TO ‘FAST FOR A DAY’

One Voice invited non-Muslims to fast for a day in a community cohesion initiative, and over 200 took part in the initiative.

‘I’m not a Muslim but I will fast for one day’ started in 2014, with members of the public, officials from major local organisations from the public and private sector taking part.

Ramadan is the holy Islamic month where Muslims forgo food and water between sunrise and sunset. A third of the population of Blackburn and Darwen is made up of the Muslim community. This year Ramadan in the UK consisted of a 19 and a half hour fast approximately.

The campaign is supported by local restaurant Bukhara Samlesbury who provide food for participants when opening their fast.

Sam Politt and Katie McEvoy from Bootstrap

Sam Pollitt and Katie McEvoy from Bootstrap fasted on the first day of Ramadan on Thursday 17th May.

Geoff Wilkinson fasted for the second year for this initiative. Geoff said, “Fasting during Ramadan is a humbling experience. I don’t feel hungry, especially when I know there are people in our own town who can’t afford to eat enough. Instead of thinking of hunger I think of other ways I can help through my work.”

Joanna Burtonwood has participated in the project since it began. Joanna said, “I have fasted every year for the last four years to demonstrate my friendship and sense of solidarity, to show tenacity and appreciate the things we take for granted.”

Jonathon Prasad, Project Office for Lancashire BME Network got involved this year “to experience what it is like to fast, so that I can better understand this key pillar of Islam.”

Jonathan Prasad

Jackie McVan, Service’s manager at Change Grow Live took part in this initiative for the third consecutive year. Jackie said, “This is my third year of fasting, and on each occasion I have increased the length of time I commit to this. This year I am doing 5 days. People ask why I do this and to be honest that’s exactly why….because it generates conversation and mutual curiosity. It demonstrates the camaraderie I have when working side by side with One Voice and of the mutual respect we have of each other’s cultures and faiths.”

Carol Beardsworth from Blackburn Carers participated in our Ramadan initiative for the second year and this time fasted for the entire month.

Melanie O’Neill and Laura Leonard from Inspire hoped to tackle discrimination by fasting. Melanie said,

“We’re fasting in an attempt to break down barriers of stigma and discrimination. We hope to promote a sense of community connectedness and to better understand and show respect for others beliefs.”

Caroline Almond, Katie Harrop and Amanda Pennington from BwD Children’s Services also fasted for a day.

17 people from East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust took part in the scheme along with The Revd Canon Dr Rowena Pailing from Blackburn Cathedral.

A team from Lancashire Care Foundation Trust fasted for a day.

Gillian Readfern said, “We decided to take part as a way of showing support to one of our colleagues, who fasts every year. We have all developed a greater understanding of Ramadan and agreed that we could at least attempt to fast for just one day. We are going to be mindful of people who are less fortunate than ourselves and keep them at the forefront of our minds throughout the day. This will also help us develop a greater appreciation of the free access we have, on a daily basis, to unlimited food and water supplies.”

Pleckgate High School

Jenny Savage, Sarah Roxby, Jane Lippitt and Ashley Brierley from Pleckgate High School also took part in our Ramadan initiative.

Jenny Savage said,

“I work at Pleckgate High School as the head of RE so not only do I teach about Ramadan, I am also surrounded by a lot of pupils and staff who fast during this holy month. For one reason or another I have not been able to fast in previous years, but this year there is no reason why I can’t and I think if my year 11 pupils can fast during their GCSE exams, some over 2 hours long and more than one in a day, then I can definitely do it for one day. I have always admired our pupils and staff for coming into school and working so hard even though they are fasting, but I think I will have even more admiration and understanding for them once I have experienced it for myself.”

Jamie Fisher, Christine Preston and Pam Lammy from BwD Adult Social Care also fasted for one day.

Ruth McNulty from Kumon Blackburn Central Study Centre who also participated said, “I have many Muslim staff and families at the centre. I wanted to show solidarity with them during Ramadan. Obviously 1 day of fasting does not compare to 30 days but it will give me an opportunity to understand what it feels like to continue with a normal day: working, training and running class, all while fasting.”

Ruth McNulty from Kumon

Sam Morris from Blackburn Carers also fasted in a show of solidarity with Muslim staff members. Sam said,

“I have chosen to take part in fasting today as part of Ramadan. This is a time for reflection, self-discipline and self-control. By fasting I aim to empathise with those people that are less fortunate and have very little. The Carers Service Team have members of staff who are fasting. I am in awe of their self-discipline and control and how they stay committed whilst looking after family members and working supporting carers. One day is nothing in comparison, but this opportunity has made me look at the world differently and appreciate how lucky I am.”

Dominic Harrison, Director of Public Health for Blackburn with Darwen, said,

“I am fasting today to show solidarity with my many Muslim friends and colleagues. I know for Muslims, this time is not just about fasting and self-denial in remembrance of those less fortunate but it is also a time of great generosity with many Islamic communities positively giving a proportion of their wealth to those in need around the world.

“I know that as a faith Islam holds the belief that ‘every single human life is as precious to God as every other.’ This is the true radicalism of Islam. Such radical equality has massive implications for how we view the world and how we organise society. If we all acted on this core value we would all be happier, safer and I have to say ….healthier.”

Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service also took part in the project.

Paul Smalley from Lancashire Mind fasted to “strengthen the bond we have between our faiths and communities.”

Stephanie Hastwell, Netball Development Officer for Lancashire & Cumbria also fasted for one day.

Stephanie said, “I am taking part in this fast to show respect and understanding of the range of cultures, faiths and beliefs that I am engaging with throughout my role in the community.”

Chris Seddon is a regular participant in the initiative saying, “I’m fasting today for two reasons. One, because I have many friends from countries where children and families are starving every day of the year. Two, because I want to share this fast with my Muslim neighbours and friends, it’s all part of being a community.”

Lynne Mitchell from Near Neighbours fasted for a day alongside Sue Hopkinson from Humraaz Support Services. Sue said, “Fasting will help me further understand the beliefs of my colleagues and raise awareness of the need for a cohesive society.”

Rebecca Ramsey and her colleagues from Adults and Prevention, Housing and Localities service at the Council also took part in the initiative.

Vicky Shepherd and Elaine Jennings, Age UK

Vicky Shepherd and Elaine Jennings from Age UK BwD fasted for a day for the third consecutive year.

Naomi and Teresa from Care Network participated in the project as well as public health specialist Kenneth Barnsley.

The Organ Donation and Transplantation team fasted for a day. Angela Ditchfield, Diversity Lead Nurse Organ Donation, said, “This is a fantastic initiative and I have taken part for a few years now. It’s great to experience a very small part of Ramadan and it makes you appreciate the dedicated commitment people have to their religion. One day is very hard for me and so it’s amazing how people fast throughout Ramadan. It’s a privilege to be involved.”

Group Scout Leader, Lee Arrandale and Explorer Scout Leader Katie Parker took part in the initiative alongside Stuart Parker, Explorer Scout Commissioner, Blackburn Scouts. Stuart said,

“I am delighted to join in with the initiative. I promised I would join in after attending an Iftar Under The Stars event last year. It’s great to join all my Muslim Scouting friends fasting today just before they celebrate Eid.”

Zaffer Khan from One Voice spoke about the communtity cohesion project.

“This project has developed year on year and it is now a significant fixture in the calendar for a lot of non-Muslims who want to share in the experience of Ramadan. It shows the togetherness that exists among all of our communities in Blackburn and Darwen.”