Lancashire Light Foundation: Preston's interfaith organisation bringing communities together over what unites us
Founded in the early 2010s by peace activist Nadeem Ashfaq and Dr Arfan Iqbal, the organisation encourages people to talk openly and honestly whilst also respecting others and offering the basic human courtesies necessary to cultivate real conversation.
Also on-hand to provide a welcoming environment for those keen to learn more about Islam and Muslims, The Light Foundation’s focus is always to bring people from all walks of life together over what we share rather than that which divides us.
“The Light Foundation brings people together and allows anyone to talk honestly and sincerely about things which affect us,” says Nadeem, from Preston. “As humans, we have differences of opinion, but coming together in solidarity and with respect allows us to have those conversations with courtesy.
“A difference of opinion can lead to hatred and intolerance, so we wanted to channel difference positively, which is where the inspiration for the organisation came from,” he adds, saying that attendees at their monthly meetings come together as if they’re ‘best friends’.
The dialogue promoted by The Light Foundation has had a real impact, too.
Nadeem has, in the past, had people attend who openly say they don’t like Muslims but that they were surprised to find that they liked the Muslim members of The Light Foundation owing to their having skewed views promulgated by extremist content on social media.
Another branch of The Light Foundation’s work is practising what they preach, which is just what they did recently with a visit to a local care home as part of a compassion-based outreach programme rooted at the heart of the Islamic teachings towards the elderly.
In anticipation of celebrating Eid, a day of celebration marking the conclusion of the holy month of Ramadan where Muslims fast for the month, representatives from the interfaith organisation met with residents at the Finney House care home.
"We have been visiting the Finney House care home regularly for a few years and are deeply grateful for this special friendship,” says Nadeem. “We pray our visit was able to bring happiness to the hearts of those we met.
“Thank you to the brilliant KW Foods in Preston for their support in making this visit a success.”
Listening to the many inspiring stories from those living at the care home, including emotional accounts of their lives, the volunteers met, spoke to, socialised with, and offered gifts to staff and residents.
According to The Light Foundation, the visit was a demonstration of not only their values, but of the importance of combating isolation and loneliness amongst the elderly.
"Loneliness can have a devastating impact; evidence shows that social isolation increases the risk of premature death by around a third,” said the Chief Nursing Officer for England recently. “Our advice is for people to keep a friendly eye on relatives, friends, and neighbours."