Joey Barton pencilled in for debate on faith and racism in Burnley

Former Clarets star Joey Barton has been approached to take part in a debate on religion and social media as part of a series of events planned by Burnley's multi-faith Building Bridges group.

Building Bridges in Burnley meeting
Building Bridges in Burnley meeting

The outspoken footballer, who has a huge following on the social media platform Twitter, is expected to take part in a debate alongside the Bishop of Burnley, the Rt Rev. Philip North, other faith leaders and former England goalkeeper Rachel Brown, in April.

The debate is one of a number of exciting and thought-provoking events planned by the group for this year.

Burnley Building Bridges is is an interfaith organisation created after the 2001 disturbances in Burnley, to enhance awareness and understanding between different faith groups.Its planning group consisting of Mozaquir Ali, Bea Foster, Fr Peter Hapgood-Strickland, Jane Ingram and Afrasiab Anwar, have planned some exciting and ambitious programmes for this year.

Bea Foster, a long term active member and organiser, said: "We are all geared up about the forthcoming exciting events and will invite everyone to join us for a better integrated and cohesive Burnley."

Events include:

• Jihad of Jesus, Friday March 23rd at Blackburn Cathedral. A seminar which aims to create a safe space to explore common ground and discuss the differences between the Muslim and Christian faiths.

• Palm Sunday Celebration at St Andrew's, Barden Lane, Burnley on Sunday March 25th.

• Is Burnley racist? Debate planned for Monday April 9th looking at how faith is relevant to people in this digital social media culture age and how it affects us. Expected guest speakers Philip North, the Bishop of Burnley, an Imam, former footballer Joey Barton and former women's footballer Rachel Brown leading the debate.

• Curry and Pies Festival, to be held at Burnley Peace Garden on Saturday May 12th. Local catering businesses will be approached and encouraged to participate to showcase their cuisine and at the same promote their business as well as community cohesion.

• During the month of Ramadan, May 16th to June 14th. Mosques throughout Burnley will invite people of other faiths and none to break fast with them in their mosque.

• Jo Cox Great Get together will be held on Saturday June 23rd at Crown Point's Singing Ringing Tree site. Will include a sponsored walk, speeches and a feast at the heights at sunset.

• AGM, Wednesday June 27th at St Mary's Church, Parish Room, Yorkshire Street, Burnley. Guest speaker being considered include Bishop of Salford.

• Annual Burnley FC Building Bridges Community Cup Football Tournament will be held at and in partnership with Burnley Football Club. Will bring together children from across the town, schools and communities for a game of football and building friendships.

• Family Fun Day and Picnic, on July 25th at Thompson Park, families encouraged to bring food to share with other families at the picnic.

• Faith journey on the canal with Mid Pennine Arts during Burnley Canal Festival, Saturday August 25th to 26th August.

• Faith, Greet and Meet. During the month of September faith and community leaders will organise informal visits to each other's places of worship.

• Scriptural reasoning with faith and community leaders, on October 10th at Whalley Abbey. This event will seek to bring together clergy and faith and community leaders from and will discuss their understanding of scripture.

• Walk of Faith with feast, on October 28th.

• Annual celebration charity dinner, to be held at a local restaurant on November 14th to celebrate successful implementation of the year's work and activities, revisit projects, thank volunteers and raise money for the following year's activities.

Mozaquir Ali, founder member, said: "As always, we welcome new volunteers, may they be individuals, religious and non religious voluntary organisations to join in our efforts towards a better and more cohesive Burnley, free from bigotry of all kinds.

"It is not the difference of faith and culture that divides us but the lack of celebrating them. Let us celebrate common humanity that unites us and reject differences that separate and divide us."