Brighton and Hove’s spiritual and political leaders pray for peace

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.

Brighton mental health charity launches suicide app at Synergy Centre

Grassroots, a Brighton mental health charity, has developed what is believed to be the first suicide prevention free mobile phone app called StayAlive.

The charity aims to raise £20,000 to improve vital support for vulnerable people at risk of taking their lives.

It launched its crowdfunding campaign to raise the funds on World Suicide Prevention Day 2016 today (Saturday 10 September) at the Synergy Centre, in West Street, Brighton.

Brighton and Hove has had a higher rate of deaths by suicide than the national average for more than a century and is currently ranked 136 of 144 local authorities for suicide rates.

Councillor Dick Page, the Green Party’s spokesman for health and wellbeing at Brighton and Hove City Council, said: “While we as councillors have a duty to ensure support is maintained to keep people safe from self-harm, abuse and neglect, we are increasingly reliant on the ground-breaking and practical work of Grassroots.

“As individuals we all must share responsibility for recognising and responding to our fellow residents who may be in need of help. A friendly word or show of support is free, yet can sometimes make all the difference to people going through a difficult time.”

StayAlive is a free, nationwide pocket resource on your mobile phone, packed with useful information to help people at risk of suicide and anyone who knows someone at risk of suicide. It includes

  • My Safety Plan that is an advance agreement of steps to take if you become unwell
  • My Lifebox full of photographs of family and friends
  • Reasons for living and self-help ideas – this is about what works for you
  • Looking after yourself which is about having compassion for yourself, knowing when to stop and checking you are not over-tired or hungry
  • Where to find help in your local area including counselling
  • Breathing exercises and grounding techniques

Grassroots chief executive Miranda Frost said: “Our vision is that no one has to contemplate suicide alone. The app is a big part of giving a lifeline to those at risk of suicide. With your help and donations StayAlive can become more effective and will help even more people at risk. It’s quick and easy to donate essential funds. You’re just a few clicks away from saving a life.”

A recent survey of StayAlive suggested that 76 per cent of users who have used the app used it to help someone else stay safe from suicide. The survey indicated that its most useful feature was the “safety plan”.

Since its release in 2014, the app has been downloaded more than 16,000 times, won multiple awards and has been included as a “national inspiration” on the Crisis Concordat website.

StayAlive is available in app stores. It is currently a private, personal and portable resource but the next phase of its development may allow app users to connect with others and share experiences.

The council’s lead member for mental health, Councillor Caroline Penn, said: “The StayAlive app developed by Grassroots plays a very important role in suicide prevention. It provides immediate support for those considering suicide as well as advice for those concerned about a friend or family member.

“We can all play our part in supporting those experiencing suicidal thoughts. If we talk and most importantly listen, we can work together to keep our friends, family and community safe.”

Grassroots Suicide Prevention teaches suicide alertness and intervention skills to community members and professionals with the aim to make our communities safer from suicide. The charity is supported by the council.

To find out more about how to donate to help fund the app, click here.

Councillor Penn said that anyone who was worried about someone they know could download the StayAlive app to a private device, call the Samaritans on 08457 909090 or the Mental Health Rapid Response Service on 01273 242220. Both telephone lines are available 24 hours a day.

Other mental health charities include MIND and Brighton and Hove Carers Centre.