Copyright: Speaker Newspaper

In celebration of its 10-year anniversary, The Ramadan Tent Project charity are holding their Open Iftar events in cities all over the UK, inviting people from all different faiths and walks of life and creating space for discussions alongside Muslims breaking their fasts. Last Wednesday, it arrived in Manchester for the second time.

To mark the anniversary, this year’s theme is ‘Belonging’, which is all about connecting people from different backgrounds and sharing and celebrating our authentic selves with the world. The theme was truly represented at the event which was a multi-faith gathering, with a welcome from the Dean of Manchester, Rogers Govender, and speeches by Rabbi Robyn Ashworth-Steen and Headteacher of Manchester Qur’an Academy, Shaykha Nosheen Gul. Other speakers in attendance included Leader of Manchester City Council, Bev Craig, podcast host Ansh Sachdeva, and representatives from sponsors Islamic Relief and Algbra.

To further add to the theme, the Open Iftar was held in Manchester Cathedral, and although Dean Govender has hosted a number of youth iftars there encouraging young people to build bridges and get into community service, it’s the first time in his 18 years as Dean of Manchester that he has hosted an iftar like this.

“It’s the first time that people will be sitting on the floor and breaking their fast with the way it’s all laid out here which I think is quite unique for the cathedral,” Dean Govender told us. “Keep in mind that this cathedral has been around for 600 years and it’s been a place of prayer and worship, serving the community locally and beyond, and so any faith community or community group that’s helping people to serve our goals and build bridges will get all the support from us. I’m very pleased that my Muslim brothers and sisters can break fast here tonight and celebrate the 10th anniversary.  So, congratulations on the 10th anniversary!”

It was great to see the Open Iftar take place in Manchester, bringing together its spirited community who are renowned for embracing unity and inclusivity. Everyone sat side by side on the seating set up across the floors of the cathedral and the fast was opened to the adhaan (Islamic call to prayer) with dates, fruit and water. The Muslim attendees were then encouraged to leave the Cathedral to pray outside in Cathedral Gardens which was executed flawlessly.  On their return, they were handed either a vegetarian or non-vegetarian meal, all catered by My Lahore and handed out by the many welcoming volunteers.

The cathedral echoed with the buzz of conversation and laughter as guests sat on the floor and engaged with one another.  The night was an incredible celebration of Ramadan and perfect for Manchester’s diverse community to have a space where people can share an experience.  It was refreshing to have such an event take place indoors, just as life is getting back to normal after COVID – a time where we wondered if a night like this would ever be possible again.

“I guess we’re part of facilitating a space where people can connect with one another and since COVID, a lot of people have realised the importance of making these healthy connections,” volunteer Maliha Patel tells us. “I feel like this now is going to just re-emphasise that, get people together and have some good food, hopefully!”

Overall, this event was a stunning example of inter-faith cooperation. We need to build bridges as communities, and events like this one are a great step towards this. In an increasingly diverse society with so many people from different religions and backgrounds, events like this may only continue to grow and become an exemplary way to encourage unity.

“I’m looking forward to welcoming everybody and people taking in the ambience and the spiritual energy of this place where Christians have prayed for over 600 years,” Dean Govender expressed. “I’m hoping when people leave this place tonight, they will be very encouraged by what they experience and they’ll go out with a greater sense of commitment and enthusiasm to serve the community.”