Christians, Jews and Muslims from all walks of British life made a pilgrimage through central London on Thursday, in a show of unity against the hatred that drove recent attacks in France and Denmark.
More than 100 people, including faith leaders, children and pensioners, walked in the rain from London’s main mosque at Regent’s Park to the Central Synagogue and then through the bustling crowds of Soho to Westminster Abbey.
At each venue they gathered for a moment of reflection, led variously by the local imam, rabbi and priest, to emphasise their shared values and hopes for peace.
“The terrorists hope to divide us but these atrocities are uniting us,” Sheikh Khalifa Ezzat, chief imam at London Central Mosque, told AFP.
The march was called in response to last month’s Islamist attacks in Paris, by a group of religious leaders brought together under the inter-faith Coexist programme.
Since then Europe has been rocked by the shootings in Copenhagen, which once again targeted free speech and the Jewish community.
“The Paris attacks were extremely frightening. The violence — it was an assault on freedom, on the sanctity of life and it’s an assault on Judaism, which again we saw in Copenhagen,” said Jonathan Wittenberg, rabbi of the New North London Synagogue.
“We can’t let that be the last word… I felt it was very important that there should be a response.”
Many of those on the march had travelled to London for the day, including Margaret Lloyd, a 65-year-old follower of the Church of England from Coventry in central England.
“There are so many extreme views flying around, which turn off a lot of people who don’t believe in God and make people think religion is responsible for all conflict,” she said.
Walking through the streets with her husband, she said: “We want to be here — this demonstrates that people of faith can be people of peace.”
Not everybody agreed. Wittenberg and priest Margaret Cave, who walked with a banner at the front of the march alongside Ezzat, were accosted at one point by a passer-by.
The man, who wore a smart suit, accused them of “appeasing” Muslims who had murdered Jews.
“I think he rather missed the point of all this,” remarked one of the volunteer stewards.
From Agence France Paris