Bishop John Sherrington, representing Cardinal Vincent Nichols, joined 100 imams for a vigil by London Bridge today to remember those who died in the terrorist atrocity last weekend and to stand in solidarity with Muslims, Christians and Jews as they denounce all violence and declare that love will ultimately triumph over hatred.
A public statement signed by 500 British imams was read out condemning extremism and terrorist violence. They also urged people to report to the authorities anyone expressing support or sympathy with violent extremism.
They reiterated their commitment to not accepting terrorists in life or death by refusing to perform funeral prayers for the people responsible.
Imam Qari Asim, spokesperson for the British Muslim Forum and Imam of the Leeds Makkah mosque, said: ‘We want to send a clear message to any Muslim attracted to violent extremism. This is forbidden by your religion. There is no justification in Islam for taking innocent life. If you follow this path you are stepping away from Islam to a dark and godless place. Your views are not welcome in our mosques or in our communities. This is not a path to heaven: think of the pain you will cause, the lives you will destroy. Please, think again.’
Shaykh Shahid Raza, a trustee of the British Muslim Forum said: ‘Most Muslims in Britain know full well that the extremists are not good Muslims. But we know that there are individuals and organisations trying to sell a perverted version of Islam to impressionable young people. We want to make very clear, as Islamic scholars and leaders, that they are wrong. The violent and hate-filled views they hold are not Islamic.’
Bishop Sherrington told the assembled crowd:
‘Cardinal Vincent Nichols has asked me, Bishop John Sherrington, as Auxiliary Bishop of Westminster, to represent him here this afternoon. The Cardinal thanks the British Muslim Forum for inviting him to attend the public witness today to pay tribute to those killed in the terrorist attacks and to speak out against those who committed them. We have all been shocked by the terrorist attacks in Manchester and here in our own city on Saturday night. As we condemn such atrocities, we pray for the victims who have died, those in hospitals and all whose families have been torn asunder by this cruelty. We thank God for the generosity of the emergency services, the police and the staff of our hospitals, who seek to protect and save life.
‘The people at a concert or out around London Bridge were living their lives to the full with family and friends. When confronted by violence, they responded to it with acts of selfless bravery and care for strangers. This tells us much about the good in our society. Even in the darkest moments, perhaps especially in the darkest moments, we find virtue shining through in the actions of ordinary people. We find our common humanity. We measure our strength not in our capacity for violence, but in our capacity to love. As people united by belief in God, we proclaim faith is our resource which helps us to overcome evil, struggle through adversity, and show the capacity of generous love to those in need. By that faith in God, we are given the capacity to go beyond the worst situations and renew our hope. May people of all faiths, with all people of good will, continue to strive to build a society founded on justice which leads to peace.’