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Westminster terror stirs spirit of unity among faith leaders

31 March 2017


United voice: left to right: Sheikh Mohammad al Hilli, of teh Shia Muslim Council; Archbishop Welby; the Chief Rabbi, Ephraim Mirvis; the Chief Imam of the Central London Mosque, Sheikh Ezzat Khalifa; and the RC Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Nichols, on Friday evening

United voice: left to right: Sheikh Mohammad al Hilli, of teh Shia Muslim Council; Archbishop Welby; the Chief Rabbi, Ephraim Mirvis; the Chief Imam o...

WESTMINSTER ABBEY will hold a televised “Service of Hope”, to be attended by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry, at noon on 5 April, in response to last week’s terror attack only yards away.

The Home Secretary and the Acting Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police will be present, as well as “families of those killed in the attack, together with other victims, witnesses and first responders from the police, fire, ambulance and NHS hospital services”, and representatives of the main faiths and Christian denominations, it was announced on Wednesday afternoon.

The Archbishop of Canterbury and other religious leaders have already taken a united stand. The Archbishop joined other leading religious figures in a vigil outside the Abbey last Friday (see photo).

The leaders held a minute’s silence to remember the four victims, and spoke of their determination not to let violence triumph.

“We have all of us come together because it is a moment of sad reflection but also of determination for our nation together. We represent the three Abrahamic faith communities, equally committed to a peaceful future,” Archbishop Welby said.

The funeral for PC Keith Palmer, who was stabbed to death in the attack, will be in Southwark Cathedral on Monday 10 April at 2 p.m. His killer, Khalid Masood, 52, a Muslim convert who had been raised as a Christian, was shot dead by another officer.

The Bishop of Rochester, the Rt Revd James Langstaff, who was entering the Palace as the attack happened, said last week: “I hope people would be prayerful for the well-being of those who have been injured, and the well-being of our democracy.”

Archbishop Welby told the Lords on Thursday morning that a Lambeth Palace security guard, a Muslim, narrowly missed being hit by the attacker’s car. “[He] arrived at the gate having been missed by the vehicle very narrowly and spent time helping those who had been injured,” Archbishop Welby told peers. “It was typical of this community and this country that he refused to go home until the end of his shift and simply spent the time doing his job as he expected.”

The Chaplain to the Speaker of the House of Commons, Prebendary Rose Hudson-Wilkin, wrote in the magazine The House: “There is the danger that as we seek to find the answers to questions of why, how and who, we might be tempted to blame a religion or a particular group of people. We must not yield to this temptation.”

Faith leaders from across the capital gathered in silence on the steps of St Martin-in-the-Fields on Thursday evening, before a vigil organised by the Mayor of London.

In Birmingham, where Mr Masood lived, religious leaders insisted that the city was not a hotbed of jihadism. The Bishop of Birmingham, the Rt Revd David Urquhart, said at an event organised by Birmingham Central Mosque: “After all the very negative publicity our city has had, it’s very important that all the faiths come together.” Signs were held up stating “Not in our name — Muslims oppose IS”.

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