RELIGIOUS leaders from across the Bradford district have come together online for an interfaith response to the coronavirus pandemic.

All the contributors to the ‘Keeping Faith’ blog gathered via video conference link for the special event to mark Interfaith Week last week.

It was hosted by the Bishop of Bradford, the Right Reverend Toby Howarth and Keeping Faith’s Diocesan Interfaith Adviser, Jenny Ramsden.

The Keeping Faith blog was collated by Jenny during lockdown, to share inspiring stories of how people’s faith has been helping to keep them going during these difficult times.

The evening online session consisted of speakers from the Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Sikh and Christian traditions, each of whom have been contributed to the blog; sharing how they have responded to the pandemic in practical ways by helping the most vulnerable people in our communities.

They have also been sharing stories of what it was like to mark significant festivals during lockdown. And they highlighted particular scriptures or prayers that have sustained them.

After the virtual discussion contributors met in smaller video conferencing groups and to reflect upon and respond to what they had heard.

Bishop Toby said: “It is not often that we have the opportunity to hear not just what people from different faith backgrounds are doing but why?

“What makes them tick? What are the resources from their scriptures that inspire them, or prayers that sustain them in their darker moments?

“It was this depth and richness that set the Keeping Faith project apart, and that made this event so refreshing.”

Jenny Ramsden said: “Faith is such an integral part of so many people’s lives, and so it felt important to recognise this and to ask people how their faith has kept them going throughout these strange and difficult times.

“Thanks to the contributors to the blog, we now have a lasting record of how people from different faith communities responded to the pandemic - both on a personal and at a community level”.

Dr Kuldip K Bharj from the district’s Sikh community said: “Thank you for facilitating an exceptional session bringing together ordinary people doing some extraordinary work during these challenging times”.

Sofia Buncy from the Khidmat Centres and Bradford Council for Mosques said: “It was an incredible evening of much needed reflection, enrichment and rejuvenation for Interfaith Week 2020”.

Ravinder Dharni from the Bradford Hindu Council said: “It was an honour to be part of such a varied interfaith community. I look forward to many more to come”.

Richard Stroud from Bradford’s Jewish community said: “It was excellent to listen to such positive and enlightened thoughts as well as meeting new friends in the breakout rooms”.

Saadia Mushtaaq from the Muslim Women’s Council said: “It was great to see such a good mix of faith representatives and the breakout rooms were wonderful for insightful discussions”.

Roz Roberts from the Buddhist Community said: “Thank you to everyone for such inspiring contributions - it shows how we are connected while having different spiritual practices, that kindness love and compassion are the bedrock of communities.”

Earlier this year the T&A ran a series of articles by Keeping Faith contributors. In her reflection on lockdown, Sofia Buncy, recently appointed Deputy Lord Lieutenant for West Yorkshire, said the uncertain times ultimately steered her back to her faith.

Wrote Sofia: “I wouldn’t say I am a perfect Muslim in the ritual sense. I fail on many accounts. I am very much still a ‘work in progress’ but I think that’s what makes us human, those rugged edges, and I’m ok with that.

What I am always is God conscious and Islam allows the flexibility for us to worship and remember our lord in more ways than one. One aspect I am proud to say I embody is an unfaltering sense of social responsibility as a Muslim to support others, carry out charitable work and live my faith as opposed to just ‘believe in my faith’.

Over the years I have been fortunate enough to be a tool God has used to carve support for the most vulnerable.

Amidst the calamity, fear and vulnerability between life and death, I find myself still in his sujood (prostration). I run a community food bank and am a daily listening ear for so many feeling vulnerable and alone.

I would like to believe hope conquers the fear of ‘the other’. That goodness prevails.”

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