Christmas uniting communities: Celebrating a fantastic year at Leeds Islamic Centre


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 SAYING THANKYOU: Local dignitaries and children from Bankside Primary School join in the fun

SAYING THANKYOU: Local dignitaries and children from Bankside Primary School join in the fun

The Lord Mayor of Leeds was joined by schoolchildren and local dignitaries at Leeds’ Central Jamia Mosque this past week as a very special Christmas lunch brought people from all backgrounds together.

Organised by day centre manager, Asghar Ali, the event was a ‘thank you’ to supporters from all communities who continue to work together for the greater good in Harehills.

Unlike a traditional festive dinner, this feast comprised of tasty selections from a spicier menu, with curry and rice replacing the traditional Christmas turkey.

Children from Bankside primary school were also invited down to join in with the celebrations, which brought young and old together at the Spencer Place mosque.

Speaking about the project, Asghar said: “Today is all about saying thank you to our local community.

“We want everyone to come here, celebrate and see how we can work together. It’s about networking and making those connections in the wider community.”

Also invited to the lunch were partners from the University of Leeds, Roscoe Methodist Church, the Reginald Centre and Touchstone.

The Lord Mayor of Leeds, Gerry Harper, with students from Bankside Primary School

The Lord Mayor of Leeds, Gerry Harper, with students from Bankside Primary School

Over the past 12 months, a range of activities have been held at the centre, with partner organisations helping to create cohesion.

“There’s certainly a lot going on under one roof here,” added Asghar. “We did a diabetes programme earlier this year which was carefully structured and at the moment we’re running ‘Chat for Change’ which is in partnership with the Dementia and Alzheimer’s society.

“We’re also running a ‘Winter warmth’ scheme, supported by Leeds City Council, as well as women’s chair-based exercises every Tuesday, supported by Touchstone.”

Adding to the ever-growing list of initiaitves, Asghar mentioned ‘Memories’, which is co-ordinated alongside Touchstone.

“It’s a carefully tailored programme which allows our older generation to talk about their early histories and what they did when they first came to this country,” he said.

“Right now we’re doing History Pin with the Reginald Centre and the Library Services, which is looking at old memories. We’re mainly working on the memory of the elderly. People are more open about dementia and Alzheimer’s and the centre is here to help. We work with the wider community. We couldn’t do this type of work alone.”

Tasneem Akhtar, from the management committee, was also in attendance on the day.

COMMUNITY INITIATIVES: The elderly meet up to talk about their early lives in Leeds and also to take up sports, such as chair exercises

COMMUNITY INITIATIVES: The elderly meet up to talk about their early lives in Leeds and also to take up sports, such as chair exercises

After welcoming in a diverse audience, she reiterated the importance on uniting people of all faiths and none to mark special occasions.

“Today is about inviting all the different communities to come and enjoy the festivities of Christmas,” she said. “It’s a Christmas dinner with a twist.

“The Lord Mayor of Leeds, Councillor Javaid Akhtar and Councillor Mohammed Rafique are here too.

“It’s to say thank you for the work everyone has done and to show that we can continue to get together for any celebration, any festival, in any community.

“We are all in this together. We are not just Asian and we are all united. This is the way forward.”

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