Forging new links in Leeds between faiths

Henna Bahar, 10 of Gipton Libi Doerfler , five of Moortown and Zeinab Aslam, nine of Gipton enjoy the picnic

Henna Bahar, 10 of Gipton Libi Doerfler , five of Moortown and Zeinab Aslam, nine of Gipton enjoy the picnic

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Two communities, separated by faith and a lifetime of preconceptions, are taking great leaps to forge new friendships.

And it’s the women of Leeds that are setting the pace.

Members of Nisa-Nashim at the picnic

Members of Nisa-Nashim at the picnic

A picnic at Roundhay Park yesterday, organised by the Nisa-Nashim group made up of Muslim and Jewish woman, is one of a series of social occasions to draw closer links between the two groups.

“It was really wonderful, it was an absolutely fantastic crowd,” said co-organiser Coun Salma Arif.

“There was a great mix of people, we thoroughly enjoyed it - and the weather was really sunny! There was a really good vibe, it was very successful.”

The Nisa-Nashim group, which means ‘women’ in Arabic and Hebrew, was set up earlier this year to forge new links between the city’s Muslim and Jewish women.

The picnic at Roundhay Park

The picnic at Roundhay Park

The goal is to work together to build bridges, challenge misconceptions and foster leadership skills, focusing on a series of social events to highlight the similarities between their two faiths and cultural identities.

“It’s so that we can get to know each other individually,” said Coun Arif. “We know there’s the elephant in the room, the Palestine-Israel conflict, but it’s good to get to know each other as friends.

“It’s about building a friendship between cultures. There are a lot of challenges, but also a lot of similarities - being in a minority is one.

“The idea was ‘let’s make friends, and let’s get the kids involved’.”

Co Chair Salma Arif and Hilary Curwen have a chat by the bandstand

Co Chair Salma Arif and Hilary Curwen have a chat by the bandstand

Between 30 and 40 people attended Sunday’s picnic, and organisers are now hoping to hold a social evening in October.

Over time, they hope to build up to series of events to be held quarterly though the year.

A prayer vigil at Leeds Minster, led by Anglican Bishop of Leeds, Nick Baines and Rector of Leeds Sam Corley, together with council leaders and multi-faith leaders.
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