I'm proud to live in - and to represent - our diverse community in Redbridge.
On Sunday, I attended an open day at New North Road Community Centre, organised by the Hainault and Chigwell Muslim Association. The centre hosts a range of activities throughout the week - from extra tuition classes for young people to Friday prayers for the Muslim community. The centre is available to hire for the local community to use. I've hosted a Saturday morning drop-in there in the past. This is a vast improvement on where the centre was just a few years ago, when it was a derelict eye sore with no one able to use it. Thanks very much to Dr Hameed and the team for inviting me along (not to mention for the samosas, tea and cake!). We also discussed community cohesion, measures the centre are taking to be good neighbours and discourage people from bringing their cars to the centre and what we can do to promote community cohesion.
Last night, I had the pleasure of addressing the Wanstead and Woodford branch of AJEX - the Jewish ex-serviceman's group. I gave a talk about politics and took a wide range of questions on Brexit, housing, the NHS, immigration and the Labour Party. In a week where a fascist was defeated in the French presidential election, it was a real honour to meet a 97 year old veteran of the Second World War, who fought in France to push back the tide of fascism in Europe. Thanks to his service and the sacrifice of others, we enjoy the democracy we're taking part in today.
Last week, I attended Vaisakhi at the Panjabi Centre in Ilford and the following night the Sikh Welfare Society dinner, both of which served as a way to celebrate the enormous contribution of Sikhs to our community in Redbridge - and the service that Sikhs, Muslims and Hindus gave to the British forces during the First and Second World Wars, a story that isn't told often enough.
Last week I also attended the Avanti Court Hindu primary school in Barkingside. I've been there a lot during the past two years and joined in their celebrations of Hindu festivals (including the particularly memorable chariot festival in Barkingside) as well as a range of other school events like their Superheroes Big Pedal Action Day!
Woodbridge High School has played host to the Redbridge Buddhist Cultural Centre for many years now and a couple of weeks ago I attended their new year celebrations.
The Girl Guides have a Christian ethos and I enjoyed talking to them a few weeks ago at Holy Trinity Church in Barkingside.
This is just a glimpse into one of the great things about representing a community as diverse as ours: the opportunity to learn from different cultures and faiths.
During my first two years in Parliament, I've been proud to stand up for people from all backgrounds: speaking up against Islamophobia and antisemitism as co-chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group against Islamophobia and vice chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group against antisemitism, calling for an inquiry into the British involvement in the 1984 Amritsar massacre, seeking justice for the Tamil community following the Sri Lankan civil war, demanding government do more to tackle the persecution of Christians abroad and supporting the expansion of Hindu schools in Redbridge.
I hope on June 8th, people will lend their support to me again as someone who will champion the interests of people from all backgrounds, not just a few.