Christmas is an important time for people of all faiths and backgrounds. It is an opportunity to spend time with our families, participate in our communities and think of those less fortunate than ourselves.

This year in particular, it is a time of celebration for all faiths, cultures and communities alike. This December, I will be remembering the birth of Jesus (peace be upon him) and the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), as well as the example they set throughout their lives.

It is worth remembering that Jesus (peace be upon him) is considered a prophet of very special significance to Muslims too. In the Qur’an, Jesus (peace be upon him) is described as a miracle of God and it was he who first predicted the coming of Muhammad (peace be upon him).

I’ve spoken to many people from different faiths in Derby this month and they all recognise that there is something very special about this time of the year.  I have happy childhood memories of spending time with my family, watching Christmas films or listening to festive music.

Simple acts such as gift giving, or coming together at nativities and concerts demonstrate that we are all an important part of modern Britain. In every community across Derby, families and communities will be joining together to enjoy each other’s company.

But behind the celebrations lies a truly deep and poignant meaning that touches the hearts and minds of people of all faiths. It is a time for all of us to take a step back and think about others – whether at home or abroad.

For example, I will be taking the opportunity to spare a thought for the millions of innocent people displaced and the thousands killed by the terrible conflict in Syria. It is a time to help our neighbours, colleagues and strangers too, who may be going through a difficult time financially or emotionally. Christmas is when communities come together.

In light of the recent arrests in the city, this is more important than ever. Derby is a city proud of its culture and diversity, where all communities share the same values.

By working together with community and faith leaders, we will continue to show that Muslims are a united and peaceful people. I believe it is our duty to condemn hardliners and reject the small minority of individuals who hold extremist views.

In Derby, when faced with adversity, our people unite and show the value of safe and strong neighbourhoods.  As the Cabinet Member for Community and Cohesion, I want to assure people that significant progress is being made to protect every community.

At Christmas, we can all help to spread a message of tolerance, unity and hope. These are values that all faiths and cultures share.

So why not attend an event in your community over the festive period? By getting to know our neighbours we can create safer communities and a stronger city.

It is only by working together, building relationships that we can be confident that Derby is a safe, cohesive and well integrated place where our children grow up to be rounded, understanding and tolerant.

Christmas is a time of peace and goodwill. It is also a time to think about and celebrate the things that we share in common, rather than those things that divide us.

I hope you all have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.