LEADERS of different faith communities today signed a Bradford charter as a joint message of compassion and support for asylum-seekers and refugee families in the city.

Charter organisers hope a copy will go up in City Hall for everyone to see and that it will inspire a united effort to help fund initiatives and projects offering support, including foodbanks and welcome centres.

Representatives from faiths and community groups gathered in front of City Hall to show united awareness of the charter and their hope that it will inspire others to join them and do more to welcome refugees and asylum-seekers.

Community development worker Sofia Buncy, from charity Muslim Hands, said: “Everyone has been doing their bit in Bradford but if we work collectively we can pool efforts and look at fundraising to support new initiatives like foodbanks or welcome centres across the city, or to give more practical support to schemes that are already happening.”

The wording of the charter, which follows a similar initiative started in Sheffield about six months ago, was a joint effort that included Bishop of Bradford the Rt Rev Toby Howarth. “It says we have faith communities who are comfortable working with each other, who are not just prepared to talk nicely together but to usefully work together to welcome the most vulnerable people to our city,” he said.

Balu Lad, from the Shree Hindu Temple and Community Centre in Little Horton Lane, said: “We are all together in supporting the crisis of migrants from the Middle East and other areas who are running away from persecution, starvation and all sources of other problems. As Bradfordians it’s our duty to support these needy people in whatever way we can.”

Maqsood Ahmed OBE, director of community welfare and development at Muslim Hands, said the charter was “much more than ink on paper”. “It trickles down to grassroot level where we can work with refugees and provide them much needed help,” he said.

Lord Mayor of Bradford Councillor Geoff Reid said the charter was a continuation of a long-standing Bradford tradition.

“We are continuing a great Bradford tradition of welcoming a stranger,” he said.

In 2010 Bradford was the third city in the UK to be officially recognised as a City of Sanctuary. Bradford City of Sanctuary chairman Will Sutcliffe said the new charter was a statement of intent.

“We hope that all the representatives involved will take this intent back to their own groups and encourage others to make a contribution to the good work we are already doing here in Bradford to give sanctuary to refugees and asylum-seekers,” he said. “There are many groups and individuals already involved but there are others who are not aware and we hope they will be encouraged by their leaders.”