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Wednesday, 21 November 2007

Survivor of 9/11 Addresses Community Meeting in Darnall

Islam Awareness Week came to Darnall for the first time this year with two events, one in Attercliffe and the other in Darnall.

Local residents were invited to visit the Quba Culra Mosque opposite the Don Valley Stadium where there was an exhibition about Islam and a chance to be present for one of the five daily prayer times at the mosque.

At the Darnall Forum Community Learning Centre, on Main Road in Darnall, forty local community leaders also gathered for a seminar with two Muslim scholars, Imam Fadel Soliman who is the director of the Bridges Foundation – an international charity dedicated to building reconciliation between Muslims and other communities, and Mufti Yusuf Akudi who is closely involved in Muslim and inter-faith projects in Dewsbury and in the wider Yorkshire and Humber Region.

‘The purpose of the seminar was to help local people to think imaginatively about ways of working more closely together and to learn from each other’s experiences,’ said senior BME Development Officer, Ghazala Bi who works for Sheffield City Council and Darnall Forum.

Mr Soliman, who describes himself as a survivor of the 9/11 attack in New York, told the meeting how his narrow escape from death had convinced him that he was called to spread understanding between Islam and people from other faiths and none. Mr Akudi described how the 7/7 attacks in London were first reported to him in the middle of an inter-faith meeting. Those attacks had made it all the more important, he said, for people from the Muslim community to work with other people to breakdown division and bring about regeneration in communities like Darnall.

The Revd Vernon Marsh from the Sheffield District of the Methodist Church, and Mr David Missing, who convenes the Darnall Churches Together organisation, gave a Christian perspective on inter-faith community work. Mr Marsh said, “Every part of the city of Sheffield should be a place where people can flourish. People from all faith traditions share a concern for the well-being of individuals and communities. As a Christian I believe it is important to link arms with people from other faith groups to find ways of addressing the problems which diminish people's lives in places like Darnall.”

Mr Mohammed Ali, the Chair of the Pakistani Muslim Centre in Darnall, said that Darnall was becoming a better place to live but that the more people from different faiths and cultures could work together the better things would be.

Bringing the meeting to a close, Mr Abdool Gooljar explained how Islam Awareness Week had grown from small beginnings, with a gathering of only ten people for the first ever meeting fifteen years ago, to events which now attract hundreds of people.

Chair of Darnall Forum, Sylvia Hamilton, said that she hoped this would be the first of many such meetings in Darnall. ‘We have to show the few people who turn to violence that their way of expressing their faith is not going to change things,’ she said, ‘But that working together is the real way to make a difference. This is what we are trying to do in Darnall.’

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