Eid prayer recited outside Barking Town Hall as groups call for more worship spaces

Members of Riverside Muslim Association observe an Eid prayer outside Barking Town Hall

Members of Riverside Muslim Association observe an Eid prayer outside Barking Town Hall. - Credit: Jon King

An Eid prayer has been recited outside Barking Town Hall to highlight the need for dedicated spaces to practise faiths.

Seven people from Riverside Muslim Association (RMA) marked the end of Ramadan outside the town hall on Thursday, May 13.

The RMA says it has spent nine years trying to get a space big enough to meet its 100 members' needs.

eid prayer outside barking town hall

The Association is seeking a space big enough so its 100 members can gather together. - Credit: Jon King

The group is sharing an interfaith space at the Rivergate Centre in Minter Road, but because it is next to a school, numbers are limited to 20 in term time. 

Eid falling on a school day meant not all members could gather as they wished.

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RMA organiser Hussain Shefaar explained: "The bigger the number the better. You get that sense of being together as a community."

Sam Pollard, Ibrahim Oyedele and Rev Cecilia Dewu

L-R: Sam Pollard, minister at the Church at Barking Riverside, RMA chairman Ibrahim Oyedele and Rev Cecilia Dewu from On the Rock Ministries. - Credit: Jon King

Chairman Ibrahim Oyedele said for years the RMA has sat at tables with decision makers and "nobody has budged".

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"We thought the use of the multi-faith space was a breakthrough, but this only emphasises the importance of having dedicated spaces for each faith group. We need our own space," he added.

Sam Pollard, minister at the Church at Barking Riverside, said: "Not being able to celebrate Eid together is a huge blow for our Muslim friends.

"It would be like Christians not being able to gather for Christmas. 

"This is not about blame or demanding space be provided. There simply is a lack of faith spaces for a rapidly growing community."

Rev Cecilia Dewu, from On the Rock Ministries, said her organisation also needs space to do its work supporting single mums and youngsters in Marks Gate.

A council spokesperson said demand for places to worship is growing as the borough's population changes.

He added the town hall is working with faith groups to ensure community centres are available "where possible".

He said the council is committed to helping meet all faith groups' needs.

Matthew Carpen, managing director at Barking Riverside Ltd (BRL), said: "It is important to us that religious groups have space to worship."

He added access has been limited during Ramadan due to social distancing, but BRL is working with the council and others to increase capacity in line with government restrictions easing.

He said there are future requirements for more multi-faith spaces as more homes are built in the area.

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