The Kingdom of God is like people from different faiths and cultures coming together to celebrate... And so the Kingdom of God was witnessed in Hackney, East London,when the Muslim community and the multi-faith and multi-cultural organisation London Citizens invited 500 guests of all faiths to mark Iftar,
the mid-point of the Islamic month of Ramadan and to celebrate the 100 Days of Peace and the Olympic Games, taking place just a mile away from the York Hall in Bethnal Green, the venue of this gathering. Iftar is the meal taken by Muslims after breaking their dawn to sunset Ramadan fast. Sharing this meal with others has special significance and it is celebrated wherever possible with the community.
Among the guests at this celebration were Rushanara Ali, MP for Bethnal Green and Tessa Jowell MP, Shadow Olympics Minister.
During the evening, representatives of all the faith communities, including Rt Rev Adrian Newman, Bishop of Stepney and Rabbi Jonathan Wittenburg, signed up to a statement of commitment to peace which is at the heart of all our faiths. There were many Catholic guests and these included: Carmel in the City convenors, Sylvia Lucas and Martin Pendergast, Sr Helena McGilly, RSC and Patrick Osekwu from St Joseph's Hospice, Hackney.
There were short, lively presentations in the course of the evening from sporting organisations. Many of the guests were contributing to the Olympic Games as volunteers or working with Citizen’s groups to strengthen relationships across the diversity of the community in order to promote greater peace and understanding on London’s streets.
London Citizens has 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 Legacy Company to ensure that land available for housing on the Olympic site includes Community Land Trusts which will ensure affordable homes for local families in perpetuity.
The 100 Days of Peace is a Church initiative, a period of time encircling the Olympic Games in which all are encouraged to lay aside enmities and to engage with the Olympic Truce from 27th July – 9th September 2012 and to continue to pray for peace for 50 days following the Closing Ceremony of the Paralympics.
An integral part of the 100 Days of Peace is the London CitySafe Campaign where young people and adults work together on initiatives to encourage businesses and organisations to offer their premises as CitySafe havens.
After the celebration of these achievements, sunset was welcomed with the recitation of verses from the Qur'an and the fast was broken with water and dates. After prayers, a delicious meal, generously provided by a local restaurant, was shared and there was time to socialize.