The leader of the Church of England has praised the response of UK faith groups following the Woolwich attacks – as he also called for unity.
The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, speaking following a meeting with faith leaders in Leicester, yesterday said: “We’ve all been horrified by the brutal murder of Drummer Lee Rigby in Woolwich.
“All of our prayers and mine are with his family, his colleagues and comrades and all those who witnessed this crime and those in the community who have been so affected by it.
“I want to recognise the response of churches, mosques and other faith and civil society groups as well as those of brave individuals who have done so much to bring our communities together at this time.
“The strong response of the Muslim Council of Britain and many other organisations has rightly emphasised that these acts have no place in Islam.”
He added: “The Bishops of Southwark and Woolwich have visited the area in which this dreadful crime took place and have prayed with the local community there.
“Bishop (of Woolwich) Michael Ipgrave has met with other faith leaders in the Woolwich community and encouraged clergy and other Christian leaders to make contact with other faith leaders to ensure this awful incident does not cause division.
“I want to commend very strongly what they are doing locally and encourage Christian leaders more widely to do the same.
“This is very much a time for communities to come together.
“As patron of the national Christian Muslim Forum I know that the forum is offering support and encouragement for these meetings to happen and I continue to hold all those working in these efforts in my prayers.”
The archbishop said he was confident the attacks would not undermine the work done to build inter-faith links, referring particularly to Leicester where there is a large Muslim community.
He praised the work of faith leaders including Sheikh Ibrahim Mogra, assistant secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Britain – also co-chairman of the Christian Muslim Forum – and of the city’s bishop, the Rt Rev Tim Stevens.
He said: “I think Leicester is a shining example of how these communities work together and I am confident that because of the very good work Ibrahim has been doing and that we’re all doing that we are in a good position.
“There’s very good foundations which have been laid over the last few years, it’s very solid, and I’m highly confident.”
Sheikh Mogra said: “After the 9/11 incident the London bombings and during the visit of the English Defence League to Leicester, the Leicester communities have all stood together shoulder to shoulder.
“We had a tremendous public show of support for the Muslim communities after the terrorist attacks, where religious leaders, community leaders, people from all walks of life stood with us shoulder to shoulder and the peace has continued.
“This is one of the strengths that our country has where people are able to make a distinction between law-abiding, peaceful citizens and the criminals.”
Bishop Stevens said it was important for people “to continue to make friendships” across inter-faith communities. He said: “We saw signs of compassion and courage spontaneously expressed when this awful crime took place on the streets of Woolwich, we see it here every day here in this city.
“We want our people to get to know their neighbours, to visit their local mosques and churches, to eat together, to build friendships and work together for the strength of their community, and you know in Leicester we have been doing this for the last 20 or 30 years, and I think we understand how to do it.”
Referring to the current visit to the city of delegates from the Meissen Commission, including the archbishop, the Bishop of Woolwich and leaders from the Protestant Church in Germany, Bishop Stevens said: “We’re very happy for them to see what can be done, not only here but around the world.”