Through The Gates – A visit to our local Muslim Schools On International Peace Day

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21st September 1Through the Gates’ – A visit to our local Muslim Schools

An International Day of Peace event, 21 September 2015

Every year on 21st September communities across the world celebrate the UN International Day of Peace. To celebrate in our corner of London, The London Inter Faith Centre together with Islamia Girls School and the Al-Sadiq and Al-Zahra Schools opened their doors and invited local residents and neighbours to step inside. It was an invitation to meet some of the teachers, students and parents of these Muslim faith schools, one predominantely Sunni, the other predominantly Shia. And to visit the Al-Khoei Mosque, meet representatives of the Foundation, and to share a meal. It was a popular invitation. Over 50 people of many faiths and none, gathered for an opening speech by Tulip Siddiq, local MP on the value of faith communities. A short walk up the road, we entered the gates of Islamia Girls School, proudly rated an ‘Outstanding’ school by OFSTED last year, and were lead on tours of classrooms by teachers, confident members of the Student Council and parents. A few more steps and with a growing entourage of parents and teachers from Islamia and a buzz of conversations, we entered the gates of Al-Sadiq and Al-Zahra Schools where another very warm welcome awaited us from students and staff. Presentations in all the schools showed students involved in wider community issues through membership of North London Citizens, or by engaging in projects with local residents; visiting local care-homes, and raising money for chosen charities. Our morning was drawn to a close with a visit to the Al-Khoei Mosque, the beautifully transformed former Brondesbury Synagogue, and a generous buffet of middle-eastern fare for all.

The morning was a unique opportunity to see the schools ‘at work’ allowing participants, whether visitors or long-term residents, to learn a little more about each other, “I was really impressed with the contribution that the schools make to the community through their activities outside of the school.” wrote one participant afterwards.  For another it was an extraordinary moment of clarity; to visit a faith school that acknowledged and taught about other faiths.  A contrast to her own schooling which had taught there was only one, and no other, faith.   One participant felt disappointed there was seemingly no opportunity or time, to address specific issues of gender or ‘faith-segregated’ education, but today was a day that stretched beyond differences and overwhelmingly,  the generosity of spirit, and hospitality extended by all at Islamia Girls school and the Al-Khoei Foundation and schools were infectious; “I was in turns moved, impressed, feeling connected” ; “Lovely to know that next time I walk up Salusbury Road and notice the girls coming and going from school, I’ll feel much more connected to them”, and  “An enlightening and educational morning, but above all I’m left with a sense of togetherness and common outlook that binds us all rather than the differences that are all to often perpetuated.”    The theme of this year’s peace day was ‘Partnerships for peace – dignity for all’.  Thank you to all who took part in this event.

 

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Jo Winsloe