'This weekend is the full festival frenzy – Easter, Passover and Ramadan'

London Central Mosque in Regent's Park has been given listed status by Historic England. Picture: LO

Laura Marks attended an iftar held at the Central Mosque, Regent's Park - Credit: Archant

The creamy humus, tahini, rich aubergine dip and sliced, sweet, pickled cucumbers looked and tasted authentic and homemade – the food of my Jewish upbringing.

Except this was part of the meal eaten after a day of fasting at Ramadan, the iftar, being generously served to guests from all faiths and backgrounds at the Central Mosque, Regent’s Park.

Ramadan, a month of reflection, fasting and giving to charity, is characterised by these uplifting community iftar meals and they have come to punctuate even my own year. 

This weekend coming up, is the full festival frenzy – Easter, Passover and Ramadan will all be celebrated as we also enjoy the long-awaited start of spring.

Laura Marks OBE

Laura Marks has felt uplifted by the differences in diverse Britain - Credit: Laura Marks

Passover and Easter tend to be very close as the Jewish and Gregorian calendars include leap years ensuring that festivals are in the same season year after year. Ramadan, however, moves forward several weeks – this year, by coincidence, overlapping with the other Abrahamic festivals.

But it was not just the food or the season that felt familiar at the mosque this week – the generous hospitality, the volunteers directing people to their places, the sense of purpose, and the building, filled with people and chatter, could have been a church, gurdwara, temple, synagogue or even a local community centre.  

Last week Alyth Synagogue in Temple Fortune laid on its ninth annual interfaith iftar. Though this time it was hosted by the Jewish community, like at the Mosque it was laden with hummus, salads, opportunities to reflect, and warm, volunteer-led hospitality. It felt very different – to have an imam reciting the call to prayer in a synagogue is most certainly counter-cultural – but that very difference was uplifting. It stimulated discussion, questions, conversation and the sharing of knowledge and ideas.  

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“What makes us different is who we are,” wrote the late Lord Jonathan Sacks. “What unites us is what we do.” 

As I turn my attention to the festival of Passover this weekend, I’m aware of the challenges of our difference and diversity in Britain today. 

We are not all the same, but literally opening our doors and welcoming our neighbours into our community spaces, as I saw this week, awakens opportunities, and offers new, and often delicious, possibilities.  

Laura Marks OBE is founder of Mitzvah Day, chair of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust and an interfaith consultant – commongood.uk.com