Thursday 23 November 2017

Faiths stand together, united in the face of terrorist atrocities

People look at flowers outside the Town Hall in Albert Square, Manchester after a suicide bomber killed 22 people . Picture: PA
People look at flowers outside the Town Hall in Albert Square, Manchester after a suicide bomber killed 22 people . Picture: PA
Nicola Anderson

Nicola Anderson

'I teach my daughters that when you clip your nails, you must put them back into the earth," said Imam Irfan Chishti from the Manchester Central Mosque.

How could a faith that preaches that even the smaller nail clipping is of value allow such an attack to happen "so cold-bloodedly" he questioned.

A stone bench in the middle of St Ann's Square in Manchester was commandeered as a makeshift pulpit last night for leaders of the major faiths in a second vigil to honour the victims of the terror attack, organised by the Ramadhan Foundation which works to build cohesion between communities.

This one was far smaller than the one before.

Barely 100 people stood to listen to the message of solidarity that had to be valiantly shouted out because of the lack of frills such as a professional sound system.

But far from being less powerful, it was perhaps even more so as a Jewish rabbi stood, balanced precariously on the bench, with his Muslim counterpart and alongside them Reverend David Walker from the Church of England. All were united in their message that love and righteousness speak more strongly than hate.

Read More: Communities are key to winning this brutal battle against terrorism

Mid-way through, a woman shouted from the back of the crowd. Politicians were to blame for "separating us as a community," she claimed.

Imam Chishti could not hear her words but appeared to think they were directed towards him and urged her to come up for "a hug".

"It's only love that will unite us," he said, before calling for a minute's silence.

"Sorry," said the woman, by now subdued.

In a quiet corner sat Renee Black (93), a Jewish woman from Blackburn who had travelled the 20 miles or so with her Muslim friend Sadiq Patel. Both are from the Blackburn interfaith forum and had travelled to Manchester to take part in the city's grieving process, to see the flowers and to pray together. They felt it important, they explained.

The square was a sea of flowers. Added to what was already there were all the tributes that had been placed at the town hall up the road in Albert square. They were moved earlier by city officials to clear the way for football fans to watch Manchester United take on Ajax in the Europa League final.

Election campaigning will recommence tomorrow.

Slowly, painfully, the city is being coaxed back to picking up the threads of normality, regardless of the jarring presence of heavily armed police on the streets.

Read More: The heartbreaking image that hinted at attack horror

Earlier, amid the peaceful tranquillity of the Darul Aman Mosque - which means House of Peace - Muslim leaders of the Ahmadiyya sect told how they are trying to work within the community to improve understanding of Islam.

They carry out street cleaning, have raised €500,000 for UK charities in the last year, and are arranging a mass blood donation scheme on July 1.

"Someone good in faith and nature - he is the true jihadi," explained Imam Muhammad Khurshid. On the day of the bombing, children from their own faith had gathered at the mosque in Manchester for a sports event, with a tug of war contest and other challenges.

"And then this happened to the other children," he said. Muhammed Ali had come to Manchester after losing many family members in the brutal bombing of two mosques in his home country of Pakistan in 2010.

"I picked up dead bodies, I washed the blood off the floor," he said. Monday's events brought all of this back. "There is no difference in people. We are all the same," he said.

Irish Independent

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