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Hatred will not divide us, says Bishop after Reading attack

22 June 2020


Canon John O'Shea, parish priest of St James & St William, Reading, stands among faith leaders preparing to lay flowers on Monday near Forbury Gardens, Reading, the scene of the stabbing attack

Canon John O'Shea, parish priest of St James & St William, Reading, stands among faith leaders preparing to lay flowers on Monday near Forbury Gar...

HATRED will not divide Reading, its Area Bishop, the Rt Revd Olivia Graham, has said after three people were stabbed to death and another two left injured in the town centre on Saturday, after an incident that the police are treating as a terrorist attack.

The incident took place in Forbury Gardens, a public park.

PAPolice forensics officers near Forbury Gardens, on 22 June in Reading town centre, the scene of a multiple stabbing attack which took place at around 7pm on Saturday, leaving three people dead and another three seriously injured.

The dead have been named as James Furlong, who was 36 and a history teacher at Holt School, Wokingham; Joe Ritchie-Bennett, 39, an American citizen who came to the UK 15 years ago and worked in a pharmaceutical company; and David Wails, a scientist.

A man, aged 25, from the town, was arrested on Saturday on suspicion of carrying out the attack.

Bishop Graham wrote on Twitter on Saturday evening: “Horrified to hear of stabbings in #forburygardens #rdguk. Prayers tonight for victims and their families and all emergency service personnel involved.”

She also led a vigil on Monday morning, alongside other faith and community leaders, during which flowers were laid in Forbury Gardens.

Speaking to The Reading Chronicle at the vigil, Bishop Graham said: “It’s been a shock for the whole community, and people are together waking up and realising, actually, after the shock comes a deep sense of loss, and trauma, and wondering how we are going to mend back from this.

“I’m really confident, having been here today and knowing what I do of Reading, which is a wonderful, multicultural, diverse, friendly place, that we will come back stronger from this and we will not let hatred divide us.”

St Paul’s, Wokingham, was open on Monday so that people could light a candle in the church in memory of Mr Furlong. The Rector, the Revd Richard Lamey, said: “I think we offered the School community a familiar and safe place in which to start to begin to grasp a little of what had happened to their teacher, friend and colleague and to start to grasp it as part of a community who were all experiencing the same emotions.

“We have been forced to live such separate lives for so long that being together, in a known building, felt even more important than usual. Sitting, thinking, lighting a candle, writing a prayer or a memory, catching the eye of a friend you haven’t seen since March and knowing that they feel like you do- all of this felt very precious and very important indeed.

“10 days earlier we would not have been able to invite people from the community in in this way at all. Sometimes we need to be the Church in the world- and sometimes having a building which is the community’s place for moments like this is a privilege.”

Holt School released a statement on Sunday, which described Mr Furlong as “a wonderfully talented and inspirational” teacher.

It continued: “James was a very kind and gentle man; he had a real sense of duty and cared for each and every one of our students. He truly inspired everyone he taught through his passion for his subject and his dedication. He was determined that our students would develop a critical awareness of global issues and in doing so, become active citizens and have a voice.”

The Interfaith Network for the UK also released a statement on Sunday. “Our thoughts and prayers are with all affected by the terrorist stabbing attack in Reading on Saturday, in which three people were killed by the attacker and others injured, including those who responded to it with such bravery. We condemn in the strongest possible terms terrorism and extremist ideologies that underpin it. Let us stand together in resolute resistance to such murderous acts and in solidarity with those who are affected by them.”

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