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Religious leaders, grieving families, and politicians from various parties have joined forces to condemn anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim sentiments at a large vigil, one of the first in the UK since the start of the Israel-Hamas conflict.
People stood in the cold and rain outside Downing Street and heard the archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby say that “there is no good ever in the death of an innocent Israeli, there is no good ever in the death of an innocent Palestinian”.
He stated that fighting causes pain for families, dread for the future, and pushes peace further away.
A watch was organized to safeguard community ties in the United Kingdom.
The archbishop took the stage and expressed feeling both amazed and humbled by the powerful and moving testimony given by loved ones of the victims of the October 7 tragedy. They shared their desire for peace instead of animosity.
During his speech, he addressed the audience, stating that there are children who may be contemplating attending school in the UK tomorrow. However, they may fear going due to the potential discrimination and mistreatment they may face for being Muslim or Jewish.
Unfortunately, they will be unable to wear their uniforms as they are easily identifiable – and this is occurring on our streets.
He then continued, receiving applause, stating that we must address and eliminate all forms of antisemitism and Islamophobia within our own country. It is imperative that we set an example of peace and create a beacon that can inspire others to do the same.
The event, named Building Bridges, Together For Humanity, was advertised as a gathering to grieve the loss of life from all parties involved in the conflict and to come together in solidarity against antisemitism and anti-Muslim prejudice. It was described as the first large-scale event of its kind since Hamas fighters entered Israel in October.
Jemima Goldsmith, a screenwriter with Muslim and Jewish relatives, and Rob Rinder, a barrister and TV personality of Jewish background, were among the individuals who joined the large groups of people.
Layla Moran, an MP from the Liberal Democrat party, shared with the audience that she comes from a Palestinian background and has lost a family member in Gaza. She emphasized the importance of finding hope amidst the violence and conflict.
She expressed her joy about the large number of children present today.
“We will exhaust all efforts to ensure that this is the final occurrence.”
Stella Creasy, a member of Parliament, expressed that the citizens of Palestine and Israel are suffering due to the inability of politicians to effectively address the ongoing conflict.
Tobias Ellwood, a member of the Conservative Party, addressed the audience, mentioning their location near Big Ben and the current state of divisive politics.
The person stated that the ongoing events in the Middle East could lead to a significant humanitarian crisis and the loss of lives on both sides. They also emphasized the need for us to put aside political differences and come together.
He stated that now is the moment to “stand strong with fellow political figures and leaders in our country and have the bravery to voice our opinions.”
A recent report revealed that 75% of individuals believe it is crucial to gather and grieve for the innocent lives lost in Israel and Palestine, while also standing against anti-semitism and anti-Muslim hatred. This sentiment is especially relevant in the UK due to the high levels of tension currently present.
A survey conducted by Hope Not Hate and Together For Humanity, involving 1,538 individuals, revealed that 50% of respondents believed that the conflict has negatively impacted community unity in the UK.
Out of all the people surveyed, 51% believed that the war is causing an increase in anti-Muslim hatred in the UK, while 56% believed the conflict is also causing an increase in anti-Jewish hatred. Only 11% and 9% respectively disagreed with these beliefs.
Brendan Cox, whose wife Jo Cox, a Labour MP, was killed by a far-right extremist during the Brexit referendum campaign in 2016, was a co-organizer of the vigil.
Upon concluding the event, he stated: “The purpose of this gathering is to come together as a community and embrace our shared humanity. It is to emphasize that despite our differences, there is no room for hate, anti-Semitism, or Islamophobia.”
Extremism flourishes when individuals stay silent.
Leaving the discussion to the most extreme opinions can create a toxic environment of animosity, close-mindedness, and devaluing of others.
This is when we become aware that violence occurs. I have personal knowledge of this from my own family background.
I am aware that when individuals of good character take a stand against hate in its various forms, even from those whom they may not see eye to eye with on other matters, it can have a significant impact.
A moment of silence was observed and lanterns were illuminated to conclude the vigil.