Leaders of many different faiths gathered at a multi-faith peace vigil in Hove, primarily to remember those killed recently by terrorists in Baghdad and Nice, but mindful of attacks across the globe.
Terrorist attacks in the West always attract more media attention than those in the Middle or Far East and figures reported in the Washington Post are staggering.
That is, 658 deaths in 46 attacks in Europe and the Americas compared with 28,031 deaths in the Middle East, Africa and Asia in 2063 attacks.
It is into this context that faith leaders from across Brighton and Hove came together to pray for peace.
The vigil was held at All Saints Church on Sunday 20 July organised by Brighton and Hove Faith in Action.
Mahmut Gunaydin, Director of Brighton Dialogue Society, said: “We would like you to know that we vehemently distance ourselves from these attackers, these terrorists who claim to be Muslims. For cold-blooded murderers and non-human beings like them cannot be Muslims.
Prophet Muhammed said: ‘A Muslim is one from whose tongue and hand other beings are safe, and the believer is the one who is trusted with the lives and wealth of the people.’
“We would like you to know that these terrorists do not only harm people in the West, but also Muslims in Turkey, Beirut, and many other majority Muslim countries.
“In the holy book of the Muslims, the Qur’an, it says: ‘Whoever kills an innocent person, it is as if he has killed all mankind, and whoever saves one, it is as if he has saved the whole of mankind.’
“As a Dialogue Society we believe that no religion that claims to be Divine – be it Judaism, Christianity or Islam – can contain tyranny, cruelty or atrocity towards other beings in any way. There is absolutely no justification for such behaviour.
Rabbi Elli Tikvah Sarah from Brighton and Hove Progressive Synagogue offered words of comfort from the 18th century Rabbi, Nachman of Bratslav (1772-1810) who taught:
‘Kol ha-olam, kulo, gesher tzar m’od, v’ha-ikar lo l’phacheid k’lal.
‘All the world, all of it, is a very narrow bridge, but the essential thing is never to be afraid.’
Rabbi Tikvah asked: “What did he mean? How can we not be afraid if ‘All the world, all of it, is a very narrow bridge’?
“Perhaps, because a bridge, however narrow, represents a possibility; the possibility that we can journey across the abyss. A bridge is like a lifeline, summoning us to hold on and keep going, whatever the circumstances, however terrified we feel. Whatever the risks of falling into the abyss, a bridge beckons us to step forward; to take one step after another, after another, in the hope that we will reach the other side.
“A bridge is also a tangible representation of the courage of the bridge-builders. With very rare exceptions, bridges are not natural phenomena: Before we are able to begin our crossing, the bridge has to be there, it has to be built.
“And so, a bridge reminds us of those who went before us; of those who managed their fears.”
Councillor Phelim MacCafferty said: “It is at times like these, when there are no words or actions that will do these unspeakable tragedies justice; that we must turn to those around us to seek solace and send our love and solidarity to the families and friends of those who have died.
“When the world seems increasingly divided, when hate and violence seem to be growing in all corners, we must confront them with warmth and hope.
“We must continue to show the world that the spirit of love and compassion will never be dimmed.
We will not be afraid, we will walk on together and stronger.”
Councillor Emma Daniels, Chair of the Neighbourhood, Communities and Equalities Committee taught her children and many others: “Being kind is always more important than being right.”
In her refusal to give up her idealism, she quoted Anne Frank and then gave faith leaders and residents of Brighton and Hove this challenge: “We must focus on the lost children of Europe, the refugee children lost to services and alone.
“And I must do everything I can to ensure we provide sanctuary and hope to them.
“I ask all the Faith Leaders here to please ask their communities to come forward if they have space and love and are able to provide a home for a child who needs it and to encourage them to sign up as foster parents.
“Our city must have the spirit of sanctuary in a world of pain.”
You can read the full text of the speeches here.
This article was first published on Thursday 22 July in Brighton and Hove News.