E. London Interfaith Groups Celebrate Olympics, Ramadan

Brian Padden
LONDON — In East London near the main Olympic park, Britain's largest civil society organization recently held an interfaith Ramadan celebration with an Olympic theme.  The event focused both on the Olympic tradition of peace and the positive economic impact the games are having on one of the city's most ethnically diverse areas.

In East London's York Hall, the United Kingdom's largest civil society organization, Citizens UK, organized an Iftar, the evening meal following a day of fasting during Ramadan.  The group has been involved with the London Olympics Organizing Committee and came in part to celebrate the impact the Olympics are having on the community where the main stadiums have been constructed.

The group successfully advocated for a living wage of at least $12 an hour for everyone working at London Olympics jobs, as well as Olympic funding for local schools, hospitals and new affordable housing.

Neil Jameson, the director of Citizens UK says the involvement of the East London Mosque was essential in ensuring the economic development of this ethnically diverse area of the city.

"The East London Mosque is the largest civil society organization in London, 10,000 people worship there.  So we are them, effectively, and tonight we break the fast - non-Muslims and Muslims together - because that makes for a peaceful world and a peaceful Olympics," said Jameson.

Muhammad Bari, the chairman of the mosque, says in addition to the economic benefit the games are bringing to the area, the peaceful competition aspect of the Olympics has special meaning during Ramadan.

"They want to achieve the highest," said Bari.  "So there is a healthy competition. There is harmony. There is less politics in it. So in a way it has been a superb and useful experience for people of London and the whole of Britain."

At sundown the Muslim men gather at the back of the hall for the evening prayer, and after a long day of fasting they all share a meal.

Local field hockey player Darren Cheesman, who missed playing in the Olympics because of injury, says he can see the positive influence the Olympics is having in East London.

"So for me everything that is going on here is a direct kind of impact on what I do in my personal life, so yeah, it's great as an athlete to know that this is the first ethical kind of Olympics, but it is also great to understand that that's going to have a legacy on our community as well," said Cheesman.

Cheesman says the Olympics has helped bring East London residents of all faiths and ethnicities together, to use the games to work for the common good.

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