Accompanied by Leeds-based Imam Qari Asim, British Asian Rugby Association, Founder, Dr Ikram Butt (right) discussed Rugby League with Pope Francis in March (Photo: Get Promotion PR)
British Asian Rugby Association (BARA) Founder, Dr Ikram Butt, has returned from Rome where he discussed Rugby League with Pope Francis in March.
The trip to the Vatican City was arranged by Pierluigi Gentile, head ‘rebel’ Lega Italia, the country’s only governing body for Rugby League.
Accompanied by Leeds-based Imam Qari Asim MBE and a number of Italian Rugby League players and officials, Butt also discussed the White Ribbon campaign aimed at raising awareness of domestic violence against women and the importance of faith within sports.
Butt, who is also the 2013 winner of The Muslim News Faezeh Hashemi Award for Excellence in Sport, said: “He listened carefully to what we had to say and was well aware of Rugby League as a sport. It was an amazing opportunity to talk sport and other issues with one of the most iconic figureheads on the planet.
“I have to put on record my thanks to Pierluigi and everyone at Lega Italia. Despite the ongoing governance issues within international Rugby League, Lega Italia is a perfect platform to drive the thirteen-a-side code forward in Italy and now has the legal status to achieve its objectives.
“Garry Schofield and I took a BARA team out to Rome to face the Italian Rugby League ‘renegades’ last year and just lost thanks to a last gasp penalty. We’re hoping to play host to the Italians later this year in Leeds and continue to build on the partnerships developed using rugby as a means to tackle violence against women and girls and interfaith dialogue.”
Asim, Imam at Leeds’ Makkah Mosque, said, “I was keen to share some of the remarkable work that faith communities have done in Britain to strengthen interfaith relations, which is very much in line with his views about faith communities working together like a family.
“This represents the same ethos of BARA and the many sporting community initiatives that have been led by Ikram and his team.”