A Muslim woman is to join the staff of a major cathedral, in an appointment believed to be the first of its kind.
Anjum Anwar, currently Education Officer of the Lancashire Council of Mosques, will work with Canon Chris Chivers, showing how dialogue between faiths, cultures and communities across Lancashire, and beyond, can be developed in practice.
Ms Anwar, who has been honoured for community service in Lancashire, has been appointed to a post at Blackburn Cathedral as its Dialogue Development Officer.
Her post will be funded by the North West Development Agency (NWDA) for an initial two years.
She was awarded the MBE in 2005 for her services to the community in Lancashire.
The appointment was today (Thursday) commended by the Archbishop of Canterbury’s national adviser on inter-faith relations, Canon Guy Wilkinson. “By this appointment, Blackburn Cathedral, supported by the NWDA, is demonstrating what it is to be present at the heart of the community, and to engage in positive and constructive ways,” he said. “I am very glad to commend this initiative warmly.”
Anjum Anwar said: “It’s very brave for the Cathedral to take this unique step, and I am very honoured by it. It’s a success story for the Cathedral and for the Lancashire Council of Mosques. It shows that working together has real benefits for both communities, and for wider communities as well.”
The Dean of Blackburn, the Very Rev Christopher Armstrong said: “Anjum Anwar and Chris Chivers have worked hard over the past two years to make the Cathedral a place humming with dialogue.
“They have enabled all sorts of people, of all faiths and none, to have difficult conversations that needed to happen. The two of them have a regional, national and indeed international profile, through their dialogues, broadcasting and writing.
“With the generosity and foresight of NWDA we shall be able to embed this public conversation more deeply in schools, colleges, churches, mosques, workplaces and other areas in the public sphere. This appointment shows major institutions in Lancashire coming together to blaze an innovative trail for cohesive living in our county and beyond.”
Welcoming the development, Abdul Hamid Quershi, Chairman of the Lancashire Council of Mosques, said: “This is very happy news for us in the Muslim community. It indicates the level of trust already developed between communities, and can help to take things to a new level.”
Mgr John Devine, the Churches Officer for the North-west at NWDA, said: “The NWDA recognises that faith communities are major custodians of the cultural and architectural heritage of this region, and significant partners in delivering social cohesion.
“The imaginative work already undertaken by Canon Chivers and Anjum at Blackburn Cathedral is genuinely groundbreaking. The move to employ Anjum as a member of the Cathedral team will ensure that this fine example of interfaith collaboration and dialogue continues to inspire those involved in community regeneration throughout the North-west and beyond.”
Leader of Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council, Councillor Kate Hollern, said: “This work to increase dialogue between faiths, cultures and communities is excellent and complements the 100 Voices community debates that have given local people the opportunity to discuss their concerns and give their views about cohesion in an open, honest and constructive way.”
“We found that local people from different communities have the shared values of wanting to promote strong families and good, safe, clean neighbourhoods.”