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On Thursday 4th February 2016 to coincide with the UN’s World Interfaith Harmony Week, Minister for Defence and serving members of the British Army were welcomed to Leicester.

The visit was a partnership between St Philip’s Centre and the Armed Forces Muslim Forum. The purpose of the visit was to increase understanding and to build relationships between the Armed Forces and different faith groups in Leicester.

The Rt Hon Earl Howe along with Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, Christian and non-faith Armed Forces personnel, members of Leicester’s local Army Reserve unit and the 158 Regiment of the Royal Logistic Corps formed part of the visiting group.

Earl Howe, who is also Deputy Leader of the House of Lords, was invited to engage with a wide variety of faith communities. The visiting party began at Crown Hills Community College where army vehicles were on site to welcome schoolchildren as they began their day. The Minister met pupils and presented certificates of achievement.

Earl Howe said, “I’m delighted to be here at your college, a place that considers inter-faith harmony as not just as another subject on the curriculum but as the essence of your ethos, extending beyond the school gate into the wider community.

“Together we can help tackle divisive forces that spread misunderstanding and mistrust, especially among peoples of different religions. Despite the troubles going on around the globe, I feel that universal harmony is within our grasp.’’

The next stop was briefly to Majlis-e-Dawat-ul-Haq – a mosque which is currently being redeveloped but which is affectionately referred to by locals as the ‘Earl Howe Mosque’ since it is located on Earl Howe Street! Earl Howe as expressed an interest in viewing this place of worship for the familial connection!
Following this the party headed to Masjid Al Falah where the delegation spoke to members of the Federation of Muslim Organisations (FMO) and conversed with worshippers following the observance of lunchtime prayers.

After this, the group headed off to Shree Hindu Temple – one of the oldest temples in the UK where they met several members of the Hindu community including the temple priests.

The action packed day continued with a visit to one of the largest Sikh places of worship in the region at Guru Tegh Bahadur Gurdwara where the guests took part in the traditional Sikh langar (free community meal) as well as taking in a tour of the venue.

The evening concluded with an interfaith reception including members of the Buddhist, Christian and Jewish faiths at St Philip’s Centre. HM Lord Lieutenant of Leicestershire – Lady Gretton was present at to conclude the day.

Riaz Ravat, Deputy Director of St Philip’s Centre said, “I was proud to have been part of a day where our armed services were able to connect with the very communities which are the heart and soul of diverse Leicester. It is vital for the well-being of society that our faith communities and our armed services understand and work together to benefit us all. This day of engagement opened up many opportunities for our places of worship and particularly for young people who could gain from further collaboration with the armed services”.



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