Blackburn with Darwen Interfaith Forum and the council hosted an event in the council chambers this week to mark the start of Interfaith Week.

Children from five schools across Blackburn with Darwen attended the event and put questions to panel members about their faiths.

The event began with a short speech from the Mayor of Blackburn with Darwen, Councillor Parwaiz Akhtar, explaining the valued the role of the Forum and Interfaith Week.

Council leader Cllr Phil Riley, who chaired the event, said: "Interfaith Week is an important event in our calendar and it was great to start the occasion by hosting this event in the chambers.

"Thank you very much to Blackburn with Darwen Interfaith Forum for helping our young people to raise awareness and understanding of other faiths. We also appreciate our schools attending."

The forum panel consisted of Derek Estill of Christian faith, Richard Foster a Buddhist, Ismail Satia representing Islam and Rabbi Arnold Saunders spoke from a Jewish perspective and joined online from Manchester.

The panel started off by introducing themselves and then talking about the key tenants of their faiths. They were then asked questions by pupils from St. Bede’s, Tauheedul Boys and Girls High Schools TIBS, TIGS, Darwen Aldridge Community Academy, and Pleckgate High.

Some of the questions debated included:

  • Can people of no faith go to heaven [if it exists]?
  • What are the areas in your faith that may be in conflict with modern culture? How do you overcome this?
  • Who has inspired/motivated you the most in your faith?
  • If you have/already had children, will you raise them in your faith too?

In the past 20 years, the forum has worked with schools and Blackburn College to give pupils the opportunity to learn about and visit different places of worship.

It has helped young people to raise awareness and understanding of other faiths.

As well as working with educational institutions it hold talks/lectures, exhibitions and discussions on faith that are open to the public as well as arranging and facilitating visits to places of worship.

Derek Estill, secretary of the Interfaith Forum, said: "It was great to get together with other members of the forum to debate our faith and also answer questions put to us from the schools.

"It’s always wonderful to get an opportunity to not only represent our own faiths but also learn more about all our all faith communities."

The faith representatives were keen to point out that despite their differences and even though they don’t always agree with people of other faiths (or no faith), their overall aim is to always lead with kindness and live in harmony.

Udaysah Masters, from the One Voice Charity, also read out a poem to mark Interfaith Week.

The event ended with closing remarks from Denise Park, chief executive at Blackburn with Darwen Council and Deputy Mayor Cllr Sylvia Liddle led the candle lighting ceremony. 

The week brings together leaders from all faith communities, national and local organisations, and education and academic bodies, providing focus to the importance of the work they can do together.