Reaffirming unity in the "Faith Together in Leeds 11" Partnership

The neighbourhood that was home to three of the four Londonbombers is determined to show solidarity in the wake of the shockand grief caused by the events of July 7.

Based in Beeston, Leeds, 'Faith Together in Leeds 11' is a uniquegrass roots project involving groups of all faiths and none. Thisincludes the Methodist Church, the Church of England, the Hamaraorganisation and other local Muslim organisations. It aims to servethe community in which it is based, promoting regeneration and theimprovement of local services and facilities. Working inpartnership, the Hamara Centre and the Building Blocks Centre (anecumenical building shared by Anglicans & Methodists) offerlocal residents health care, education, recreation and leisureactivities, parental support and care for the elderly. Thegroundbreaking work of this group has attracted visitors fromChristian organisations and much further afield because it isconsidered a model for inter faith community work everywhere.

As all communities across Britain and the world, the people ofBeeston were shocked and saddened by the London bombings of July 7and offer their prayers and support to those who have been affectedby them. They were further stunned by the discovery that three ofthe four bombers were from their own neighbourhood. They alsoextend their sympathy to the community of the Hyde Park area inLeeds who are dealing with a similar situation and where theMethodist church has been cordoned off because of the policeinvestigations.

Distressingly, the identification of the bombers has led to anincreased hostility towards Muslims throughout the UK. In responseto this, Elizabeth Harris (the Methodist Church's Secretary forInter Faith Relations) says; 'Islam, like Christianity, has manyshades of opinion within it and we must not let the voice of thefew drown out that of the many. Similarly, Muslim leaders are notresponsible for everything that individuals in theirsub-communities are doing, any more than Christian leaders are intheirs, or politicians or journalists are. We need to help eachother to understand what is happening in our communities andsupport each other as we try to respond and deal with it.'

Furthermore, the 'Faith Together' project feels that recent mediacoverage has misrepresented Beeston as divided and tense, and theconduct of its Muslim community as extremist and ill- educated. TheRevd Neil Bishop, a Methodist minister involved in the project,comments that 'the comfortable legend is that something has gonewrong in the grim northern towns with their divided communities andhigh unemployment. Beeston has low unemployment, good communityrelations and excellent inter faith relationships. But of coursethat's not what people in the UK want to hear, because ifterrorists can come from a progressive place like Beeston theycould be hiding almost anywhere.'

Determined that the good work begun through 'Faith Together' shouldcontinue, the Revd Bob Shaw, a local Anglican priest, says 'God hasbrought us together in Beeston as people of different faiths. OurChristian task is to continue our witness to the truth of theGospel, knowing that faith, hope and love are the things that lastforever and that these qualities will unite and sustain us throughthese difficult days.'

The Methodist Church and the Church of England Diocese of Ripon andLeeds are proud to be working in partnership with the Hamara Centrein Beeston through our shared ownership of the 'Faith Together'project and will continue to stand in solidarity with our Muslimcolleagues at this difficult time and into the future. We areprivileged to be involved in this and other faith projects with ourMuslim brothers and sisters, and hope to continue to work with themto bring peace and understanding through diversity.