We have a lot more in common than that which divides us | Oliver Ryan (Labour Parliamentary Candidate for Burnley)
No, reader, not because Saturday is my birthday, but I'm flattered! But because on Sunday we will all celebrate St George's Day and over the whole weekend the whole world be celebrating the great and joyous Muslim festival of Eid. Eid Mubarak!
I know sometimes the diversity of our towns and our country can be used to divide neighbour and neighbour, but I also know we have a lot more in common than that which divides us. To name a few things; we endure the same Burnley weather, support the same team, have the same hopes, dreams and aspirations for our families, our town and our kids, we want the same things - love, security, freedom, success, to live full lives. As Christians, as Muslims, as non-believers, as people, enjoying the weekend - we're one at times of celebration like this, and the coming Coronation similarly.
I want to say a Happy St George's Day to everyone celebrating, the story of George and the Dragon is one which we can all in some way relate to - personal struggle, ambition, bravery and pride. I'm proud to be English, to be British too, to live in Burnley, and we should celebrate on Sunday. I'll have my flags out and I know some of you will too - red and white, as well as claret and blue.
On Eid and Ramadan, let me say that as someone raised in an Irish descendent family, in the Roman Catholic faith, I've really appreciated being invited to a number of Iftar events across Burnley during Ramadan. Sincerely, I've learnt so much I didn't know about Islam, the Qur'an and indeed of the great similarities between Islam and Catholicism; Ramadan and Lent, strong traditions of prophets, learning, family, respect, prayer and coming together. It's been a total pleasure. Some people - especially in politics - can sometimes claim to know everything. Well, I don't, and really have learnt a lot over Ramadan.
I know many Muslims across Burnley and Padiham have been praying and fasting, this has not been an easy period but it is one which allows us to reflect, consider what we have and give to one another and come together in thanks, thought and praise. I have emboldened and renewed respect and admiration for those who live in faith.
I want to thank everyone who met me over Ramadan, who took the time to talk with me about Islam, and who broke bread with me, it's been great. Speaking with you, talking about religion, sometimes politics and faith more generally.
I want to wish everyone celebrating a very happy Eid Mubarak this weekend. This is a special time of celebration and I'll be celebrating with you.
Happy Eid & Happy St George's Day this weekend!
(Incidentally, indulgently and with tongue in cheek, if you're reading this I'll take that as your warmest Happy Birthday wishes for me for Saturday!)