Category: Interfaith Dialogue

British Sri Lankan Association Awards 2019

Lord Sheikh had the pleasure of receiving the Outstanding Friend to the British Sri Lankan Community Award from the British Sri Lankan Association on 19th October 2019.

The British Sri Lankan Association is a non-profit organisation which aims to empower the British and Sri Lankan communities and facilitate a society that is cohesive, fair and prosperous. The Association seeks to build partnerships and ties between the UK and Sri Lanka in the areas of economics, education, environment and health.

Lord Sheikh is a friend of Sri Lanka and has visited the country three times. He works hard to promote relations between the UK and Sri Lanka.

Lord Sheikh made a speech at the event which highlighted his connection with the Sri Lankan High Commissioner in London, Her Excellency Ms Manisha Gunasekera, and the good work she undertakes in her role as High Commissioner.

Lord Sheikh once again paid tribute to the victims of the devastating attacks on Easter Sunday in Sri Lanka earlier this year and denounced the actions as not in our name. He acknowledged the presence of Father Fernandes at the event. Lord Sheikh also spoke on the importance of interfaith dialogue and the need to promote peace and harmony amongst various racial and religious groups. He stressed that everyone should recognise the similarities and we share and focus on what unites us.

Lord Sheikh referred to Sri Lanka’s remarkable economic progress and the Sri Lankan trade conference held on Wednesday 9th October in the London Stock Exchange. He noted the unique relationship between the UK and Sri Lanka and how there are many opportunities to strengthen trade linkages between the countries.

  

 

British Community Honours Awards 2019

Lord Sheikh hosted the British Community Honours Awards 2019 on Friday 18th October 2019 in the House of Lords. He was also the Guest of Honour.

The British Community Honours Awards are presented to individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the welfare and integration of the British minority communities within the wider British society and those who have been honoured by Her Majesty the Queen.

The British Community Honours Awards is an organisation founded by Yasmin Sheikh CBE in 2001 as a means to highlight the success of the British Muslims who had received awards from Her Majesty the Queen. Lord Sheikh himself was a recipient of the award when he was appointed a member of the House of Lords by the Conservative Party.

2010, Yasmin Sheikh renamed the organisation as the British Community Honours Award to reflect the importance of community in the wider British society. The community awards therefore recognise individuals who have worked to improve the welfare and inclusion of all minority groups within British society.

Lord Sheikh congratulated the recipients of the Queen’s Honours and the winners of the British Community Honours Awards for their marvellous undertakings in the community.

Lord Sheikh then spoke of the importance of integration and social cohesion and the need for there to be better understanding between all the communities in the United Kingdom and in fact everywhere in the world. He stressed that there are more similarities than differences between people and the spirit of togetherness must be cherished and protected. Lord Sheikh is a Vice-Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Race and Community and a patron of several charities that promote interfaith dialogue. He spoke of his work in interfaith dialogue and promote peace and harmony amongst various racial and religious groups and that more needs to be done to tackle discrimination and improve dialogue between all communities.

 

 

Religious Persecution

My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord Elton for introducing this important and timely debate. Religious persecution has, unfortunately, been a recurring theme in societies throughout history. Historically, people of faith have been targets for persecution and discriminatory practices.

Although the title of this debate refers to the extent of persecution in this century, I will first touch on an event which occurred in the 20th century but which has had a lasting impact. When discussing religious persecution, I must draw upon the horrors of the Holocaust. This was the state-sponsored killing of 6 million people of the Jewish faith. We must not allow anything like this ever to happen again. I fully support the setting up of a Holocaust memorial and learning centre in Victoria Tower Gardens.

I have previously spoken in your Lordships’ House about the abhorrence of anti-Semitism. The fact that anti-Semitism is still prevalent in many societies is a great cause for concern. It suggests that there remains more work to be done in educating communities about historical injustices that must never be repeated. I was disturbed to learn that the Equality and Human Rights Commission felt it necessary to launch a formal investigation into reports of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party. Any such behaviour in a political party is totally unacceptable. Something is not quite right in the Labour Party if three Members of your Lordships’ House have recently resigned from it. The party must take remedial action immediately.

In December 2018, I led a debate in your Lordships’ house on Islamophobia in the UK. Shortage of time means that I cannot go into the details here. I simply ask the Minister whether the Government now accept the definition of Islamophobia proposed by the APPG on British Muslims, to ensure that we can make meaningful change for Muslims in the UK. The Balkan wars of the 1990s were driven by nationalism and culminated in the enforced deportation and senseless bloodshed of civilians, and the destruction of religious sites such as the 16th century Ferhadija mosque in Bosnia. This week is the UK’s Srebrenica memorial week, and we should always remember the Srebrenica massacre.

We can draw parallels between past events in the Balkans and the present situation in Myanmar. The Rohingya have been brutally persecuted in Myanmar and driven out of their homes in Rakhine State. The Burmese army has led a pogrom against the Rohingya, and has been accused of raping, torturing and killing citizens while systematically burning Rohingya villages. This has led to the displacement of more than 1 million citizens. The United Nations Human Rights Council has referred to the treatment of the Rohingya as genocide. I would be grateful if the Minister informed your Lordships’ House whether Her Majesty’s Government would support efforts by the UN Security Council to refer Myanmar to the International Criminal Court.

I have spoken in your Lordships’ House and elsewhere against the persecution of minorities. Most recently, I spoke in a debate in the Moses Room regarding the rights of minorities, in particular of Christians in ?Pakistan. What are we doing to provide assistance to Pakistan to improve the position of minorities in that country? Unfortunately, some people have hateful ideologies and discriminate against anyone who is different from them in any way. The plight of the Uighurs in China has worsened, with estimates of the number who have been detained without trial in so-called vocational and educational training camps varying from several hundred thousand to more than 1 million citizens. What representations have the Government made, alongside international partners, to the Chinese authorities in this regard?

Christians in China have been subjected to harassment and intimidation by the authorities, and there has been interference with where and how they can worship. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Truro detailed in his recent report the extent of the increased discrimination against the Chinese Christian community, and commented on discrimination against Christians in several other countries. What steps are the Government proposing to take to implement the recommendations made by the right reverend Prelate?

I wholeheartedly support the efforts and investments made by the Government to defend the right to religious freedom. I also welcome the fact that the UN General Assembly has recently adopted a resolution for an international day commemorating the victims of acts of violence based on religion or belief. It is vital that we parliamentarians show leadership, stand in solidarity against all types of faith-based discrimination and adopt a societal philosophy that an attack on one group is an attack on us all.

I end with a famous poem by Pastor Martin Niemöller: “First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me”. There is a powerful message in this poem.

Interfaith Meeting to condemn the Easter Sunday terror attacks in Sri Lanka

Lord Sheikh, in conjunction with the High Commissioner of Sri Lanka, Her Excellency Manisha Gunasekera, hosted an interfaith meeting in the River Room in the House of Lords to condemn the atrocities of the East Sunday attacks in Sri Lanka and show solidarity with all the communities.

The meeting allowed the members and leaders of various communities to unite and join hands to face evil and establish solidarity against bigotry, extremism and terrorism of any sort wherever it may occur.

Attendees of the meeting all stood together to condemn the actions of the perpetrators as ‘not in our name’. Guests and speakers alike expressed the view that what they have done should not result in any division or animosity within the communities in the UK, Sri Lanka and in fact, throughout the world.

Lord Sheikh spoke of the support lent to Sri Lanka by the UK government by the dispatch of a Metropolitan Police Counter-Terrorism Command specialist team and Family Liaison Officers. Lord Sheikh also emphasised that the actions of the perpetrators were go against the teachings in the Holy Quran and are un-Islamic.

Her Excellency, Manisha Gunasekera, High Commissioner Sri Lanka also spoke at the meeting. The High Commissioner stressed that Sri Lanka is fundamentally multi-faith and commended the Sri Lankan community for standing in solidarity in the aftermath of the attacks.

Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Minister for Faith and Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Wales also spoke and emphasised that all faiths and communities across the world should unite against such attacks.

Other speakers at the meeting included:

Rt Hon Alistair Burt MP, former Minister of State (Department for International Development) (Joint with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office) Afzal Khan MP, Shadow Minister (Home Office) (Immigration). Catherine West MP Seema Malhotra MP Virender Sharma MP The Lord Dholokia, Co-Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrat Peers The Rt Hon. the Lord Paul Bishop of Westminster, Bishop John Wilson Reverend Hudson-Wilkin, Chaplain to the Speaker House of Commons Venerable Seelawimala Bogoda Rabbi David Mason, on behalf of the Chief Rabbi Reverend Father Sudham Perera Dr Richard Sudworth, Advisor to the Archbishop of Canterbury Krishan Kant Attri Hindu Chaplain (Army) Dr Al Dubayan, Director General of the London Central Mosque Trust and The Islamic Cultural Centre Imam Qasim, founder and chairman of Al-Khair, Foundation.

 

Armed Forces Diversity Luncheon

Lord Sheikh attended and spoke at a diversity luncheon organised by Amrit Maan, the owner of Punjab Restaurant. During his speech, Lord Sheikh referred to the contributions of Muslims during the two World Wars. He made the point that the role of Muslims during the World Wars is not widely acknowledged and more should be done to rectify this.

General Sir Gordon Messenger, Vice Chief of the Defence Staff, was also a speaker. Other senior officers were in attendance, including some from the ethnic minorities.

World Muslim Leadership Forum

Lord Sheikh was invited to attend and make the Welcome Address at the Fourth World Muslim Leadership Forum at Lambeth Palace in London. Lord Sheikh is a European Patron of WMLF. The title of the Forum was: “The Role of Muslim Leadership in Rebuilding Islam’s Global Image”.

This conference aimed to join Muslim leaders from different corners of the globe to explore key issues, address the challenges and provide innovative solutions to delinking perceptions of associations being made between terrorism and Islam. Through strong leadership the conference led by example in opening up the discussion around this crucial challenge.

Delegates included parliamentarians, politicians, experts and scholars, UN bodies, the interfaith community, activists, policy leaders, development practitioners and corporate leaders.

The below pictures show the event Lord Sheikh hosted in the House of Lords on behalf of the WMLF which was held prior to the Forum.

#No2H8 Crime awards 2018

Lord Sheikh was pleased to speak at this event and present the Sheikh Abdullah Award for Intercultural Dialogue.

The Sheikh Abdullah Award for Intercultural Dialogue work is supported by Lord Sheikh in honour of his father, Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah of Mbale, Uganda. This award reflects Sheikh Abdullah’s ability to be successful in spite of adversity and multiple barriers in starting life in a new country.

The Sheikh Abdullah Award for Intercultural Dialogue 2018 was presented to: Ravinder Singh, Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust Charity and Fernando Sulichin.

Three Faiths Forum

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Lord Sheikh hosted the 2014 Parliamentors Alumni Awards organised by the Three Faiths Forum in the House of Lords. The Awards were held to appreciate the mentoring youth work undertaken by Parliamentarians. In his speech Lord Sheikh spoke about why interfaith dialogue is important in building bridges between the communities and praised the Three Faiths Forum and the work they undertake in promoting community cohesion. There were seven Parliamentarians in attendance.

APPG on Faith and Society Visit to Birmingham

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The All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Faith and Society visited Birmingham to explore how faith based initiatives are promoting wellbeing and providing services in the city. Members of the delegation included Lord Sheikh, Baroness Richardson, Stephen Timms MP and Jim Dobbin MP.

The delegation visited local faith centres including Birmingham Central Mosque, Central Synagogue and Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha Gurudwara meeting with faith leaders and City Council members to discuss the impact of faith on the city and the city’s growing number of faith initiatives.