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Breaking Bread With the Caliph - In the Heart of the British Countryside

30/08/2014 15:04 BST | Updated 30/10/2014 09:59 GMT

The average Asian man can consume no more than one roti bread a minute. Two makes a meal, and three a banquet. One can imagine then, how many people there must be to feed at a 3-day event with its own dedicated roti plant, churning out 300,000 rotis at a rate of 10,000/hr. The answer? 30,000 people, all attending the largest Muslim convention the UK has ever witnessed.

The event is called 'Jalsa Salana', urdu for 'Annual Gathering', and it has been hosted by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community for the past 48 years in the UK. What began as a small gathering on the greens of The London Mosque in Wandsworth has expanded exponentially as the community grew. Now, 30,000 Ahmadi Muslims attend what has become the International Annual Gathering of the community, drawing in over 6,000 travellers hailing from as many as 89 countries worldwide.

The result is a spectacle, unlike anything else seen in the UK. This spiritual family gather on the fields of Hampshire to learn about their faith, meet friends and family, and eat an average of 3.33 rotis with the provided meals per day. Aside from the education, and the bonds of friendship that are strengthened, the attendees take part in something truly unique. The climax of the three-day spiritual experience is their pledge of allegiance to their faith, at the hand of the Caliph of the Ahmadi Muslims.

Rest assured- this Caliphate is a far cry from the Caliphate predominating the headlines in recent months. The Caliph, His Holiness Mirza Masroor Ahmad is man of peace, one who guides tens of millions of Ahmadi Muslims worldwide to live their lives with love, respect, tolerance, and goodwill to those around them. Based right here in the UK, his efforts on the international stage to show that the true Islam is one of unwavering peacefulness have been widely lauded by the international community.

Breaking bread with the Caliph is therefore no ordinary experience--and my, is there a lot of bread! But the true beauty of the event for its attendees is the spiritual food on offer. Each year, a banner is draped at the back of the main marquee with the motto 'Love for All, Hatred for None,' encapsulating the spirit and purpose of this unique gathering. At a time when the world as a whole, and the Muslim world in particular, is becoming increasingly divided and conflicted, 30,000 Muslims pledging service to mankind is a demonstration of humanity sorely missing from our headlines.