Tulip Siddiq

Ten years on, Mitzvah Day is more vital than ever

Tulip Siddiq reflects on what this weekend's Mitzvah Day celebrations mean to her

November 15, 2018 15:32

I clearly remember the first time I took part in Mitzvah Day. I was a Labour councillor and chair of the Camden Faiths Forum and was invited to attend by a constituent of mine, Daniela Pears, who is the charity’s interfaith chair.

Daniela raved about how the fledgling Mitzvah Day was bringing people together in our area, and around the UK, by having those of all faiths, and none, working side-by-side to help some of the most vulnerable in our society.

So I joined one of those early projects and was wowed from the start. Now, after ten years as a charity, Mitzvah Day has grown into the UK’s biggest faith-based day of social action, replicated in many other countries around the world.

As Mitzvah Day grew, so did my involvement. I’ve entertained at care homes, made cards for children in hospital and cooked for the homeless.

After being elected as an MP in 2015, I was able to host projects inside the House of the Commons for my Parliamentary colleagues to take part in.

When my daughter Azalea was born in 2016 she was able to take part alongside me. By 2019, my current bump will be joining in, too.

The main thing that I’ve learned is that with every good deed I get to know new people. I’ve done projects with Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, Christians and atheists… and even MPs from the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats!

We live in a world that seems increasingly polarised. A world where people seem happier to shout about their differences on social media than try to find out what unites them in person. A world where we face daily fights against antisemitism and Islamophobia.

So it’s important to tear down the barriers between us and not see those of different faiths and backgrounds as “the other”.

That goal won’t be achieved in earnest meetings or via email chains alone. But differences can be broken down, and real friendships made, when you’re chopping vegetables or colouring get-well cards together.

This year’s flagship project will take place on Sunday at the East London Mosque when Jewish and Muslim communities will come together to make 1,000 portions of chicken soup to feed London’s homeless and needy. My family will be doing the same at an interfaith cook-in at JW3. The chicken soup challenge will be replicated across the country and in others, too.

People who’ve never met before will suddenly be working side-by-side united by the same goal. I know from my own experience that they will end up swapping numbers and keeping in touch. They will share good news and also be there for each other in bad times or when the other’s is under attack.

What better way to take on those who peddle hate than by such a show of collective strength and spirit from our communities?

That is why, ten years on, Mitzvah Day is now more vital than ever.

And it’s also a whole lot of fun.


Tulip Siddiq is the MP for Hampstead and Kilburn

November 15, 2018 15:32

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