Two Leeds community stalwarts have been granted a rare audience with one of the world’s most powerful religious figures – as they bid to take their message of peace and unity from Yorkshire straight to the Vatican.
Qari Asim, Imam at the Makkah Mosque in Hyde Park, and former Great Britain and Leeds rugby ace and White Rose campaign ambassador Ikram Butt, will meet His Holiness Pope Francis in Italy today (Saturday).
They will speak to the global head of the Catholic church about how Islam and Christianity can work together for the common good - and how the best principles of sport can be used as a way of motivating and uniting communities.
The duo will also present His Holiness with a glass memento - created especially for him by Makkah Mosque and the White Ribbon anti-domestic violence campaign - on behalf of the people of Leeds.
The visit came about after the British Asian Rugby Association toured Italy last year.
Qari Asim explained Pope Francis had united communities across the world with his inspirational words and had also brought humility and modesty back to his powerful position.
He said the meeting would be focused on how faith communities can work together to make faith relevant to ordinary communities.
“Linking sport and faith is unusual but [sport is] something that speaks to us all,” he added.
“Sport also breaks down barriers. It’s about working together for a common purpose, as one team to achieve a particular goal. The goal is to end violence in our world - because violence has no religion.”
Mr Butt added: “We want to use sport as a means to interfaith dialogue and for social means.
“From our point of view, it’s also about showing Islam and Christianity in a positive light.”