'We are blessed to live in a multicultural, multi-faith country – but it's not perfect'

A general view of two Muslim women and a child in London.

Despite living in a multi-cultural country people are still targeted for their religion - Credit: PA

This week, I attended a prayer breakfast not far from here.  

To my mind, prayer and breakfast are not obvious partners and neither fit into my early morning routine which revolves primarily around sleep.

Whilst I know that its traditional for Jews to pray three times a day, Muslims and Hindus five, and Christians between three and seven, nothing in my day starts this early unless I need to navigate my way through HS2 local roadworks! 

However, on Wednesday I was properly dressed early and headed into town. I was hoping, at least that the breakfast part would come first.  

This prayer breakfast was one of the events in a two day conference in London to discuss freedom of religion or belief.  

Laura Marks OBE

Laura Marks had an early breakfast to discuss freedom of religion or belief - Credit: Laura Marks

Speakers were highlighting shocking examples of Uyghur Muslims in China, Yazidis in Iraq, Christians in Nigeria, and Humanists in Bangladesh, all persecuted, often violently for basically being who they are.

This issue in Britain, seems low down on the worry list. After all, I tell myself (and anyone willing to listen to me) we are truly blessed to live in a multi-cultural, multi-faith, multi-belief, multi-everything country and the Ham&High area is the heart of liberalism.  

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We are lucky to have Sikhs, Hindus, Christians, Muslims and Jews as well as humanists, agnostics, Pagans, and all sorts of others living, working, volunteering and enjoying life together here in London.  

Lucky yes but perfect, well, no. My friend Julie was chased by thugs in a car near Heathrow because she was wearing a hijab, Ruth had a barrage of threatening on line sexist abuse because she is Jewish, Jagbir was targeted for looking like a Muslim (she is Sikh), and Joy didn’t ask for a work rota that avoided church time, in case it counted against her.   

The problem doesn’t just belong to Julie, Ruth, Jagbir or Joy. My feeling is that it belongs to every single one of us and is best done together. Whether we engage in multi–faith social action (note its only four months till Mitzvah Day), local social activities, or campaigning for the rights of others, it’s never too early to get started.  

Well, having said that, breakfast time may be pushing it just a bit.  

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