In the wake of the condemnable terror attack in New Zealand on Friday 15 March, the British Pakistani Christian Association held a peace vigil at Ilford Town Hall to commemorate those who were heartlessly taken too soon.
In the early afternoon of Friday peace was disrupted in Christchurch as Brenton Tarrant descended on two mosques in the ordinarily quaint streets of Christchurch. The justification for the attack can be found in his crazed 73 page manifesto wherein he appears to profess a white superiority complex and hatred for Muslims. BPCA condemns such violence and does not see violent reprisal as the answer to any issues.
Hundreds convened with short notice in an outpouring of love and support for the muslim community. The inter-faith event was opened by Councillor Robert C. Littlewood, Cabinet Member for Crime, Safety and Community Cohesion and he spoke of the need for greater community cohesion and stronger communities. Other councillors were in attendance.
Former Redbridge Councillor and officer at VHP Hindu temple in Ilford, Vinay Sharma, said:
“The Vishwa Hindu Parishad UK strongly condemns this act of pure evil. A tragedy not just for victims and their families but of our times. In a world of plenty, and opportunity, closed ideologies which remove plurality cause such senseless violence.
“While people are entitled to challenge doctrines in any faith that they do not agree with and while free speech is an important tenant of liberal democracies, the line must always be drawn at violent reprisal. Violence is never a solution.
“We express our heartfelt solidarity with the victims’ families and with all who are mourning for their loved ones and their devastating loss.”
Imam Sheikh Khalid from the Albayan Welfare Centre said:
“Terrorism has no colour, terrorism has no religion, in the Islamic faith we believe if one person kills one innocent person, he kills the whole of humanity. If he helps one innocent human, he helps all of humanity.”
He spoke of the senseless nature of violence and how this callous act of cruelty serves only to devastate families rather than bring any peace. Such vulgar acts must be condemned at every level.
People held hands and 49 tealights were formed into the sign of the Islamic crescent in respect of the muslims who had died needlessly on this painful day in history.
Furthermore, a bagpiper played a lament after a poignant one minute of silence to honour the deceased during which time people paused to reflect on the futility of violence and hate and how they could individually be instruments of change.
BPCA wholeheartedly condemned the attacks in the following statement, which was read out by Naomi Chowdhry (11 yrs):
“As a charity we wholeheartedly divorce ourselves of sinister, futile, horrid acts of violence which injure not only the Muslim community but the community as a whole.
Chairman of the East Ilford Betterment Partnership, Wilson Chowdhry, said:
“We stand hand in hand with our aching muslim brothers and sisters in their hour of need. We invite more inter-faith co-operation.
“We are pleased at how quickly people mobilised to support the Muslim community and attend our candle lit vigil – this level of support illustrates quite clearly that despite the efforts of those that would divide us, the love of those that wish to unite us is surely stronger and transcendental of any extraneous attempts otherwise.
“I encourage people to stand united in this dark blot on history and to render the relevant support to muslim communities in New Zealand and abroad as they heal from the trauma that this repugnant event has generated.
“Violence begets violence, hate begets hate – now is the hour for love, hope and healing. May we show those who wish to create a chasm between different faiths that our pursuit of unity and love is far greater than their malevolent aspirations to desecrate our harmony.”
British Pakistani Christian Association Spokesperson Hannah Chowdhry, said:
“I wholeheartedly condemn the awful attacks on Christchurch on Friday. It is utterly inexcusable to descend on any congregation in such a futile act of violence. It shows the hideousness of human nature.
“I answer this hideousness with love, peace and kindness which will not only cover this aforementioned ugliness but will refute it and transcend it. I know that a chorus of love is always stronger than a chorus of hate.
“There are those who wish to use such terrible events for political or social gain, but as an organisation we repudiate such efforts. We stand united with our muslim brothers and sisters and we rebuke all attempts to desecrate interfaith harmony.
“We believe we can peacefully co-exist in a way that fosters love over any propensity or predilection for hatred and enmity.
“I, and the BPCA, do not condone any acts of violence in the name of creed or, indeed in the name of secular vengeance. Violent reprisals must be condemned.
“We stand with New Zealand, with the fallen and with all those who are hurting.”