BISHOP CHRISTOPHER FOSTER: Fear and hatred will not defeat the values we share

Bishop Christopher meeting Muslim worshippers at Jami mosque
Bishop Christopher meeting Muslim worshippers at Jami mosque

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I was honoured to be invited to attend Friday Prayers at the Jami Mosque in Portsmouth recently.

I was warmly welcomed, with some of my colleagues, and we’re grateful for the relationships that exist between faith communities locally.

I pray those relationships will grow and develop to our mutual benefit, and for the good of this great city of Portsmouth and all its people.

The visit had been planned weeks beforehand, but it happened to come the day after the terrorist attacks in Spain.

It meant that we met again once again in the shadow of murderous events.

Those brutal killings in Barcelona and the apparent thwarting of a further attack in Cambrils were further examples of indiscriminate terror.

We were confronted again by the actions of people who murder and maim, whether that is in Manchester or Paris, on London Bridge or Westminster, in Aleppo or Finsbury Park.

I said it was appropriate for us, as people of God, to reaffirm our commitment to what builds community.

We need to focus on what unites us all, whether we have faith or not, in contrast to the actions and voices of those few who would divide us.

I told worshippers at the Jami Mosque that fear and hatred would not defeat the values we share.

Those who died and those injured were denied the respect, dignity and sanctity of life which we believe is God-given.

It is claimed that the actions of perpetrators have been inspired and orchestrated by IS. It is clear to me that IS is not Islamic; by using Islamic in its name it misuses that faith.

Actions like those we saw in Spain do not honour the tenets and doctrines of faith, and are not representative of Muslims, and no motivation can justify these murderous acts.

We proclaim that peace and justice are God-given. There is nothing peaceful in indiscriminate slaughter, nothing just about random acts of terrorism.

I visited the mosque to express solidarity and unity within our distinctive beliefs and faiths. Division and mistrust are not the way forward we choose in this country and in this city or between us.

We united in prayer for those injured, for their families and friends, for those bereaved and who mourn.

We gave thanks to God for the lives of those brutally killed, and for the courage and skill of those who brought support and care.

We seek to build and grow friendships and relationships under God – not to preach hatred and violence – and so to serve our community and country as well as God.