British Science Association communications officer Matiu Workman was asked to partake in One Voice Blackburn's community cohesion campaign, 'I'm Not a Muslim But I Will Fast For One Day'. Here he recounts his experience and what he learned from the event.

When I was first asked if I would be interested in partaking in One Voice Blackburn’s Ramadan initiative, it only took a few minutes to say yes. This was despite a very limited understanding of what it would involve.  
However, there were a few reasons it made sense to me, both from a personal and organisation point of view.  

The British Science Association is always looking for ways to strengthen and engage its connections and networks with different community groups. This opportunity to then be invited into their own community conscience initiative that has been running for six years was a great way for us as a charity to reciprocate the trust they had in us in sharing their story. 
In all honesty, this was secondary to why I had responded almost immediately. 
On 15 March 2019, more than 50 people lost their lives in a terrorist attack at a mosque during Friday Prayer in Christchurch, New Zealand. It was an unprecedented assault on the rights of the country’s Islamic community, yet they remained compassionate and warm with their fellow New Zealanders.   
I couldn’t quite fathom how a group that had been so targeted could continue to be so kind amidst of the chaos. Where did they find this love? I wanted to understand this for myself without being obtrusive, so this opportunity was one I was drawn to. 
I did as much reading as I could in the days leading up to my day of Ramadan. It’s amazing, isn’t it, how knowledge can be found in so many ways. For the Islamic community, that journey to knowledge reaches a pivotal point during Ramadan, the ninth and most significant month of the Islamic calendar. With an awakening to the importance of the month-long fast, I headed to sleep ready to embrace what was to come. 

I woke at 2.50am and was sipping on a glass of water when I looked out over my apartment balcony ahead of the 2.56am fast*. Six of the 140 apartments within our complex were illuminated, with faint sounds of cutlery on plates ringing out in the silence of night. The only comparison I can make was the comfort of seeing lighthouses across a dark night. 
I eventually returned to sleep before going about my daily routine. Something felt different, though. There was no hunger, no thirst to speak of. This felt strange at first, I hadn’t had any food since the night before, but then I remembered about what I had been reading the day before. 
One of the most poignant opportunities within Ramadan is the chance to reset mentally and spiritually. The month-long process isn’t simply about going without food or water throughout the day. It is also about purifying your mind, letting go of the negative thought processes we cultivate on a day to day basis. This is just as difficult, if not moreso, than the physical hunger and thirst. 
My mind had been filled with a positive wave throughout the day, and as the 9.22pm* time to break the fast drew closer, the rumbling stomach awoke. There was no stress or frustration, though, as the minutes ticked down. Instead there was a peace in knowing this was part of a bigger process, of drawing your attention to the purity of the mind and body. Of being grateful for having what you have. 
When the time came to finally break the fast, I tucked into a punnet of raspberries as part of my iftar and immediately felt a return to some form of physical and mental regularity. It was bizarre at how immediate the old ways of thinking returned as the raspberries disappeared. 
Taking part in the Day of Ramadan was a refreshing moment in a time of wider uncertainty. This opportunity to refresh mentally and physically has personally reiterated how important it is to improve in the present, rather than retreat to an older version of oneself. 
I do, however, write this from a position of immense privilege, having only gone through one day of Ramadan. For those who have gone through this month-long journey in the most testing of circumstances - thank you for allowing me to walk with you on one small step along the path. Ramadan Mubarak. 
*The lunar nature of the fast means it begins at different times in various parts of the UK. The London fast began at 3.12am, but as I was invited by a group in Blackburn, I followed their timelines.