By Lord Ahmad, Communities minister
Earlier this month in Parliament Square, Britain paid tribute to a personal hero of mine and a hero to millions of others, Mohandas ‘Mahatma’ Gandhi. A masterful politician, a social reformer and a man of peace, his actions changed the world then and still resonate now, some 70 years since his passing.
A great mobiliser Mahatma Gandhi, Bapu as he was affectionately called, united people behind a common cause and promoted religious understanding and respect – something for which he tragically paid the ultimate price of his own life at the hands of an assassin.
In modern Britain, we are greatly enriched by the different faith communities that call Britain home. From their charitable social efforts and celebrations that bring communities together – each faith adapts and contributes to all of our lives and reflects our shared British values, values of humanity.
Jewish communities have a long and proud history of philanthropy and positive social action which is part of every day life and can be most obviously seen each year on Mitzvah Day. Here, Jewish people and communities take the lead and inspire people of all ages, faiths, and backgrounds to contribute to their local communities.
Last year I took part in my first ever Mitzvah day and loved every moment of the day. Donning my fetching green pinny I rolled up my sleeves and got aubergines to help make soup for those in need.
That’s why I was delighted to see that the British Muslim communities have echoed Mitzvah day and launched the first ever Sadaqa day last Sunday.
Like Mitzvah-day and the Hindu inspired national Sewa Day, Sadaqa Day brings the whole community together in leading on social action to contribute towards making their neighbourhoods a better place, irrespective of colour, creed, faith or background.
Hundreds of people turned out – from the litter pickers in St Albans, to the Oxford kids club feeding the homeless – and it was fantastic to see local communities and faith groups working in partnership. This synergy was most notable with Shemiza from Luton who on Sadaqa Day started a knitting project, which culminates on Mitzvah Day eight months later.
We have seen how year-on-year Mitzvah day has grown and I hope that Sadaqa day will mirror that growth.
As the world we live in gets busier and busier giving your time can be the last thing on your mind. But it is not down to someone else to help others – all of us as individuals have a part to play. As Mahatma Gandhi famously once said, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”
Serving our communities, serving humanity is a defining part of every faith, why not join us and make it part of your daily life.
— Mitzvah Day 365 (@MitzvahDay) March 25, 2015
— Sadaqa Day (@MySadaqaDay) March 22, 2015