On 13th June, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, Cardinal Vincent Nichols and 100 young people from different faiths gathered for Iftar, the breaking of the fast at the end of the day during Ramadan. Organised by the Naz Legacy Foundation, this is the second year that this landmark inter-faith event has taken place.
Naz Bokhari, whose children founded the Naz Legacy Foundation, was the first British Muslim to run a secondary school in the UK. He inspired generation of students, both Muslims and non-Muslims to fulfil their potential. One of his former students was Sadiq Khan, who went on to become an MP and then of course Mayor of London.
Last year, to honour the spirit of Naz Bokhari’s commitment to inter-faith work, the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, hosted Iftar in Lambeth Palace, along with the Mayor of London and the Chief Rabbi. Following the success of the inaugural event, Cardinal Vincent offered to host it, continuing his commitment to the young people of the UK and to furthering inter-faith dialogue in London.
Harris Bokhari, Naz’s son, welcomed us all to the occasion and reminded us to tweet. So often young people are asked to obey the social rules of a different generation, so it was refreshing to be encouraged to communicate in the way we know best: on social media! What better way to show the commonalties between 100 18- to 30-year- olds than with exchanges of usernames instead of business cards. The event was about the future, and about what it will mean to live our lives through the lense of faith.
Cardinal Vincent spoke about the common ground the three faiths shared, particularly when it comes to fasting. He explained that the beautiful building we were standing in was a representation of the recovery of Catholicism in England after years of persecution, a particularly profound insight for a room full of people of faith, who knew of places in the modern world where we would be persecuted for our faith.
The Chief Rabbi continued the theme of common ground. He illustrated the importance of working together and condemned those who believe that a part of their religion is to cause harm to others, firmly stating that no religion includes that as part of their faith.
Sadiq Khan stood up to address us last, doing justice to the legacy of his teacher with the same message that Naz had himself instilled: ‘What gives me the most optimism is when I speak to young people’. Sharing stories from his time as Mayor, he relayed a message of active hope and optimism. The future relies on our ability to work together, as Britons and as people of faith, he said.
None of the speakers were explicit in their instructions because they didn’t need to be. It was impossible to hear their words and to discuss them with other young people, and not feel driven to create a bright future for our society, not just our individual communities.
The evening ended with a shared meal, the historic gesture of breaking bread made literal, as well as with the more modern symbol of companionship, taking selfies.