Friday 16th January 2015
Senior Leaders from all faiths came together today to show solidarity in the wake of horrific attacks in Paris and reprisal attacks that followed. The #UnityHope event organised by the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) brought all leaders from the three Abrahamic faiths to show the world that ‘terrorists will not divide us’.
Held at the Islamic Cultural Centre at Regents Park Mosque, there were inspiring speeches from all leaders, confirming that working together will achieve greater peace and strength.
In his opening remarks, Dr Shuja Shafi, Secretary General of the MCB said, “We decided to do this event for one simple reason – to come together in solidarity. There has been a lot of heat generated this past week, about freedom of speech, about security, and of the place of British Muslims in society. We are at risk of doing the very thing that the terrorists want us to do: divide our society. So we are organising this event in defiance of their objective.” With reference to pictures of Prophet Muhammad being printed in the UK today, he said “Muslims are no doubt hurt and offended by those depictions. But nothing offends us more than the insult, hurt and dishonour this attack has wrought on our community and faith”. He continued, “We Muslims, as a beleaguered minority, should not be subjected to such violence. Nor should our brothers and sisters in the Jewish faith. Whether it is Islamophobia or anti-Semitism, such hate should have no place in our society”.
Vivian Wineman, President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews (BOD) said: “It is lovely to see the unity of different faiths, this is precisely what we need to show the killers, who wanted to strike at every humanity”. He went on to say that “When you attack one minority, you attack all. The Jewish community acknowledges that (with the Muslim faith) we are both minorities. I can only stress the common values on the whole of humanity. They were trying to make us retrieve and fight against ourselves – that will not happen”.
Rabbi Laura Janner-Klauser, Senior Rabbi of Reform Judaism said, “One week ago someone tried to break something strong,[ that did not happen]. Talking about today’s event, she said, “This is a moment of sanctity. Jews and Muslims are united in ‘Shalom/‘Salaam’, it does not only mean peace, but wholeness”.
Catriona Robertson from the London Boroughs Faith Network spoke about the importance of “all of us to be ourselves”, quoting from the Quran the passage: ‘You were all created different so that you may get to know one another’. She continued, “We need strong and inspired leadership as demonstrated today”.
Commander Mak Chishty, from the Metropolitan Police said, “It is important (demonstrate) the reflection on what is going on in our community. He spoke about how there is pain and loss, but there is also support for one another. He stated his sadness at the loss of lives but also said “In terms of any aims terrorism has, it hasn’t worked. It’s achieved a heartening of strength and unity”.
Bessie White, from the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) said, “We take inspiration from others. So that part of God is in all of us…we need unity like this”. Murad Qureshi, London Assembly member, also spoke about the importance of Unity and spoke about the Muslim police officer who was killed during the Paris attacks.
Mehri Niknam, from the Joseph Interfaith Foundation expressed her delight in seeing faith leaders sitting side by side together. She said, “I am so happy to see an open relationship with the Jewish and Muslim community. It pains us to see both our religions to be a cause for division. We have a great understanding of the best ethical values from all religions. We will not allow them to divide us but strengthen our bond”. Speaking about the depictions of the Prophet, she said “I can also feel the pain of Muslims when a prophet is depicted in such a derogative way, it’s something that is felt deeply in the heart. We utterly completely acknowledge the statement made by the MCB”.
Dr Harriet Crabtree, from the Inter Faith Network for the UK said, “Unity is not a straight forward thing, we need to find that balance in seeking common values. It’s great to see everyone come together at this time”.
Jehangir Sarosh, Executive Director of Religions for Peace spoke about how wonderful it is to see interfaith network going on in this country and hoped that this unity can be made global.
Closing the event, Sir Iqbal Sacranie, former Secretary General of the MCB, said, “Faith leaders do come together during celebrations, and it’s great to see faith leaders can also come together in times of sadness and pain – it is a great testament to all our faiths”. He continued, “Whilst condemning atrocities, the best way to deal with denigration is through engagement. Leaders should speak up when any faith is affected. It is only successful when faith communities come together”.
The MCB held a similar event in Manchester today, at the British Muslim Cultural Heritage Centre, where senior figures from the Muslim, Christian and Jewish communities came to share common values of faith and unity.