Sport has long been heralded for its great rivalries – but also its ability to unify.
And now a Leeds cricket team is building bridges with other faiths in a pioneering tour that will take in Headingley Stadium.
Mount Cricket Club, a team of Muslim players from Batley, is participating in the ‘Light of Faith’ tour with the Archbishop of Canterbury’s XI team and Vatican-based St Peter’s side.
Tour organiser Abdul Ravat, who will captain for Mount CC, said: “We want to show that religion can unite people and that different religions can live together in peace and harmony.
“What better way to show this than through cricket?”
It follows a match that was played between Mount CC and the St Peter’s team last autumn, when the Vatican side won by four runs on the last ball.
Next Monday a floodlit evening rematch will take place at the Yorkshire County Cricket Club’s ground on St Michael’s Lane.
It is hoped that the visit will not only develop inter-faith relations but correct any misunderstandings.
Mr Ravat said: “Sometimes we assume we know about each other’s faith, but we probably don’t.”
But he said that through creating these formal bonds it can break down barriers.
“When communities come together, it makes the heart glow,” he said. “We spent three wonderful days in Rome last year in the spirit of friendship.
“We will give an equally warm welcome to our friendly rivals in Batley and look forward to playing cricket and strengthen our inter-faith relationships.”
The touring Vatican side consists of Catholic priests and seminaries who study and work in Rome.
And the Anglican team was recruited through the Church Times with the Archbishop of Canterbury acting as patron. Manager of the St Peter’s team, Father Eamonn O’Higgins, said that sport is “a great way of building up friendships.”
He added: “You do get to the common humanity of people.
“It’s an experience of brotherhood that reminds us of what we’ve got in common and to accept and venerate the differences we have.”
A special reception was held at Lord’s on Monday to start the tour. On Thursday the teams representing the Muslim, Anglican and Roman Catholic faiths will play each other in a three-way T20 Tournament at Edgbaston, Birmingham.
Then the visitors will then spend time in the Batley over the weekend, attending community events and religious services. Mount CC has been creating cricket opportunities for 40 years after it was founded in 1976.
It is thought to be the first Asian team to establish real opportunities for South Asian girls and for children with disabilities, particularly those with Down’s syndrome.
The club has been shortlisted for the Team of the Year by the British Asian Cricket Awards.
Mark Arthur, chief executive officer of Yorkshire County Cricket Club, said: “Mount CC is one of the shining lights within the Yorkshire Cricket family because of the way in which they reach out and serve their community.”
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