United we stand - Prestonians show our city cannot be divided by terror

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Standing together shoulder to shoulder ... this is the photo that proves terrorists can never win.

Almost 50 faith leaders and politicians – all from religious and politically diverse groups – show their defiance on the steps of Preston’s Harris Museum in the wake of the Manchester Arena bombing.

They came from all faiths, communities and political parties with one shared aim - to stand together in a show of defiance.

While terrorists like the Manchester Arena bomber seek to divide and destroy, almost 50 key figures linked arms on the steps of Preston’s Harris Museum to send out the clear message: This will only make us stronger.

The multi-cultural throng included representatives from Christian, Muslim and Sikh faiths, two Mayors, a selection of Parliamentary candidates taking time out from campaigning, civic leaders and council members from both county and district authorities.

It was quite possibly the most diverse group ever assembled for a photo shoot in Preston.

And not one of them needed any persuasion when the Post called for a public show of unity in the city centre to honour the dead and injured from Monday’s atrocity.

“It’s very important for us to say ‘yes we are different faiths, but we want to live peacefully alongside each other,’” said the Bishop of Blackburn, the Rt Rev Julian Henderson.

Ali Amla, founder of the Christian Muslim Encounters group, added: “It is extremely important for us to stand together. Regardless of what has happened we are going to fight the hate and not allow the terrorists to win.”

And Gurumukh Singh of Preston’s Sikh Society, said: “It has been a tremendous effort from every culture to show we are one community which stands together.”

The Church of England sent a high-powered contingent to show its commitment to peace and harmony. In addition to the Bishop, the party included the Archdeacon of Lancaster, the Ven Michael Everitt, the Vicar of Preston Fr Timothy Lipscomb and the Vicar of Broughton and Area Dean of Preston Rev Shaun Baldwin.

The Roman Catholic Church was represented by Fr Stephen Pattterson, parish priest at St Wilfrid’s Church in Preston city centre.

Pastor Ron Farrington from the Longton Community Church was there, as was Capt Alex Cadogan from the Salvation Army in Preston.

The Sikh Temple in Preston sent a group of six led by president Jagdish Singh. Donna Hussain, director of the Lancashire Forum of Faiths, represented the Muslim community.

The Mayors of Preston and South Ribble, new Lancashire County Council leader Coun Geoff Driver and South Ribble leader Coun Peter Mullineaux headed up the civic contingent.

And a handful of General Election candidates including Mark Hendrick, Seema Kennedy, Julie Gibson, Ruth Norbury and Mark Jarnell took a break from the political campaign trail to attend.

Here’s what our local community leaders said;

Mark Hendrick - Preston Labour candidate

I think it’s very important that everyone stands together, irrespective of their faith or any differences that people may have.

What’s important for the future of humanity is that people learn to get on with each other.

Whilst I think it’s important we remember what’s happened, I think in the future we have to be able to put this behind us and learn from it so that this type of thing is less likely to happen again and by doing that we can persuade people that the way to resolve problems is through discussions and negotiation, not by people taking extreme positions and resorting to the sort of violence we have seen.

Ali Amla - Community leader and founder of Christian Muslim Encounters

It’s extremely important to stand together. I am devastated that Monday night took place.

I feel really sad, upset and also really angry that a terrorist attack has taken place so close to home and people have started to sow the seeds of discourse and division within communities.

Communities are really coming together. So, while yes it’s absolutely heartbreaking what has happened, it’s actually shown the resilience of British society. It is not in our name and regardless of what’s happened, we are going to stand united, we are going to get people together and we are going to fight the hate and not allow the terrorists to do what they want.

They want us to be divided, they want us to go out and attack each other. Let’s not allow them to win.

Brian Rollo - Preston Mayor

Standing together as a community is vital at the present time.

It’s better that we come together rather than fall apart and isolate into little groups.

By and large we are a good community in Preston. We are fairly cohesive.

There are lots of groups who do come together. And that is one of the things I want my mayoralty to be about.

Fr Timothy Lipscomb - Vicar of Preston

I think it is very important we support one another because a lot of the community are very frightened, thinking ‘will it be us next, will it be Preston next?’

My main feeling is that we must look after our communities.

We have got to be very sure that our communities are feeling affirmed and positive because they are nervous.

But we mustn’t allow people to curtail our activities because we have to be strong. And actually we are much stronger than all these terrorists. The terrorists are a minority.

Most people are nice people and are getting on with it. When anything dreadful happens they all come together and rise to the occasion.

Rt Rev Julian Henderson - Bishop of Blackburn

It’s very important at the moment to stand together. Different faiths have different beliefs and different convictions and don’t agree on a number of things.

But in terms of living together peacefully alongside each other, respecting the differences is really important.

So gathering together with other faith leaders here, especially in the light of the terrible events in Manchester, it’s very important for us to say yes we are different faiths, but we want to live peacefully alongside each other and there is a respect for the right of each individual to choose the faith they believe in.

What happened in Manchester on Monday has had a deep impact and I think people have responded remarkably well.

Geoff Driver - Leader Lancashire County Council

It’s very difficult to put into words what we all feel because what’s happened was absolutely beyond an outrage.

All we can do is let people know who were affected, particularly the relatives of those who passed away and were injured that they are in our thoughts and prayers.

What we mustn’t do is allow an incident like this to divide communities and create hate. We all have to come together to make sure this doesn’t happen again.

Azhar Ali - Labour leader LCC

Many things divide us (as politicians), but this will not divide us, it will acutually unite us. We will not be beaten by preachers of hate and we will be united against terrorism in whatever form it takes.

Archdeacon of Lancaster The Venerable Michael Everitt.

“Lancashire folk look after each other and always care for one another.

”So when instances of evil and hatred like what happened in Manchester occur, Lancashire folk revert back to normal.

They show love is stronger than hate and life is stronger than death.”

Ron Farrington, senior pastor at Longton community church.

“We stand together and support each other. Through this difficult time we have seen a respect for each other.

“They tried to break us but we come together not matter what colour or creed.”

Donna Hussain from the Lancashire Equality Organisation and director of Preston Faith Forum.

“As a Muslim, we want to show that what these people are doing is not Islam. We do not advocate this because this is not our religion.

“Our religion is about leave and peace and that’s what has been shown in Lancashire.”

Gurumukh Singh of Preston’s Sikh Society.

“It has been a tremendous effort from every culture to show we are one community which stands together.”

Robert Boswell, deputy leader of Preston City Council.

“We are bonding and coming together to show these people these attacks are pointless.

“Violence doesn’t work and does the opposite of what they want because it brings us closer together.

“It will not work in Lancashire and this community shows that.”

Drew Gale, Preston city centre councillor.

“The people of Lancashire are very unique in their togetherness.

“We are tolerant, respectful and inclusive and we won’t be beaten by acts of terror.

“We are standing together with out cousins in Manchester.

Seema Kennedy, Conservative parliamentary candidate for South Ribble.

“Lancashire has a history of migration for centuries with Romans, Viking, Irish, Jewish, South Asia - from all over.

“And these different faith communities work very hard to come together. I knew that before but even more so now.

“Some of the victims are from small towns and villages where the community feel very closely affected.

“The vigils these places have held have been tremendous and very touching.”

Lakhbir Singh Rai, general secretary of Tunbridge St Sikh Temple Guru Nanak Gurdwara.

“We’ve had lots of school visits and they go away with knowing we’re the same as everyone else.

“So this has opened some doors and changed views and that’s important.”

Paul Foster, leader of the Labour party in South Ribble.

“Lancashire is a special place with special people. Our communities don’t tolerate evil.”

Shaun Baldwin, Vicar of Broughton Parish and Area Dean of Preston.

“When people respond to shock you see people come together from all faiths and none.

“I think you see the natural goodness of people.

“These terrorists want to break our communities but the problem is our communities don’t want to be broken - they want to come together.

“It actually sees us improve our relationships with others.”