MEMBERS of faith and non-faith groups alike gathered outside Redditch’s Central Mosque today in a show of solidarity and to remember the victims of the Christchurch terror attack which took place in New Zealand last week, writes Henri Bujard.
Joining them were leading members of the local community, members of the public, and representing Her Majesty the Queen, the Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Worcestershire Patricia Bradbury MBE.
Their message was simple – we stand together, shoulder to shoulder, and we will not let terror tear us apart.
The gathering had opened with a prayer from the Koran followed by a two minute silence before organiser Raf Hussain said: “Let us today pledge to fight hatred as one unified force and condemn the criminals who wish to sow division by using religion or race.”
Deputy Lord Lt Bradbury said: “Her Majesty the Queen was one of the first to express her horror at what happened in New Zealand and I am truly grateful to represent her here today.”
“We stand together, we are one unity, and it’s a sign of the strength of community here in Redditch that we are here today to stand up and say we stand shoulder to shoulder.”
Borough Mayor Juliet Brunner echoed her words before adding: “We stand here today in solidarity, sending a clear message that there is no room for racism and hatred in this town.”
The Deputy Mayor Roger Bennett read out a message of support from MP Rachel Maclean, who said: “As terrorists seek to divide us we must remember this. We are one human race. We are all born with the same organs, the same beating heart. We must treat all people the same no matter the colour of their skin, which god they may pray to or who they love.”
Labour Leader Councillor Bill Hartnett said: “These terrorists will not win; their acts only bring us closer together. We are united, we celebrate our diversity and our unity. Everybody matters.”
Other speakers included Cooks Chana from the Sikh community, Nitin Sodha from the Hindu community and Dr John Cochrane from the Christian community.
Saheed Khan, a Warrant Officer in the British Army, labelled last week’s events as ‘barbaric’ and ‘cowardly’.
He said: “These acts will not divide us, regardless of whether they are in an Army Public School in Pakistan, a concert arena in Manchester or indeed in a New Zealand Masjid.
“These acts serve to make us stronger and stand together in the face of diversity, we will remember them.”
Dr Jilly Cooper, a member of the Jewish community echoed a similar message while briefly addressing the crowd, stating that although she is secular, the Jewish community strongly stands in solidarity in the wake of the terror attacks.
Last week’s attacks at two mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, was the worst in the country’s history and resulted in the death of 50 people and left dozens more injured.
The youngest victim of the attack was three-year-old Mucaad Ibrahim, meanwhile the oldest was 71-year-old Haji Daoud Nabi.
After the gathering people were invited by Coun Hartnett to sign a peace pledge and message to the people of Christchurch which will be sent out from Redditch to New Zealand as a sign of solidarity.
Following on from the attack, New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced all military-style semi-automatic weapons, assault rifles and high-capacity magazines will be banned in the country.
Redditch Police are continuing high profile patrols across communities and places of worship to re-assure the public.