The vigil is the initiative of Religious Leaders in Beeston, Leeds.  It has been organised by the Yorkshire and Humber Faiths Forum. 

The YHFF was established last year to:
• Advance the contribution of faith communities in the Yorkshire and Humber Region
• Encourage and educate faith communities to work together in matters of policy, strategy and action
• Challenge all forms of discrimination and injustice against persons or groups of people, particularly on the grounds of religious belief.

The vigil will bring together members of local worshipping communities- Christians, Muslims and Sikhs, for silent prayer.  Prayer is common to all faiths.  We will meet outside the Mosque in Stratford Street to express solidarity with Muslim neighbours as they gather for afternoon prayers.

The vigil will express solidarity and respect of people of Faiths for each others’ faith.

It is important for people of all faiths and beliefs to publicly show that we stand together, want to work together to build relations of mutual respect and trust, and not allow those who misrepresent our faiths, or pour scorn on them, or convey hatred- to divide or separate us. 

The vigil is held in the context of a number of events that have occurred over the last 2-5 days:
• The Religious and Racial Hatred Bill coming before Parliament
• The BNP Leaders in Court in Leeds
• The publishing of outrageous cartoons in some Media.

All these events highlight particularly issues around the right to freedom of speech.

There are a number of competing rights and there is a duty upon us all to exercise our rights responsibly:
• All of us have the right to freedom of speech
• All have the right in a multi faith society to practice their faiths and to have the freedom to worship and pray
•  All have the right to live without being routinely scapegoated for all ills- as Muslims are being just now
• All have the right to protection from danger.

We cannot give priority to just one right.

There are rights, but we all have responsibilities also to show respect for what is holy for each other and in each other.

It is important to do all we can to promote respectful, good, open debate, to challenge injustice and preconceived opinions, and to do this without vitriol and verbal or physical violence against each other.

We all have a duty to avoid misrepresenting each other.  We can do this by learning, and being more informed, about different faiths and beliefs.

We need to work with each other to build a society in which we can all live and contribute to the welfare of all.

Inderjit Bhogal

Words read at the Vigil and shared on interviews with Radio Leeds, Radio Aire, BBC News Online, Asian Network BBC, Yorkshire Post, Leeds Evening Telegraph, Calendar News ITV and BBC Look North [3,4 and 5 February 2006].

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