Around four hundred people gathered in Barker’s Pool in Sheffield this afternoon for a service of commemoration, remembrance and solidarity for those killed in the atrocities in Parish this week.
This was nothing, of course, compared to the huge numbers marching in grief in Paris itself or across France. But in Sheffield, it felt a significant event, especially on a cold January afternoon.
People came because, like many across the world, we have been moved and disturbed by the terrorist attacks in France this week: the ruthless murder of journalists at the offices of Charlie Ebdo, the gunning down of police and bystanders and the killing of hostages in a supermarket on Friday afternoon.
Today’s event was organised by the Faith Leaders Group in Sheffield together with the City Council. The Faith Leaders Group has worked together over many years across the city. There are strong bonds of friendship and respect between us and a determination not to see our city divided by extremism elsewhere.
There were speeches at the event from the Lord Mayor of Sheffield, leaders from many different faith groups and from the different parties in Sheffield City Council. Sheffield Humanist Association played a significant and welcome role alongside faith leaders, local councillors, charities and others. We kept two minutes silence together at 3.30 pm. Many were holding “Je suis Charlie” signs. Some held pencils in the air.
A book of condolence was opened and signed. This will be kept in the Town Hall in Sheffield for the next two weeks.
There was also a short Act of Remembrance in Doncaster Minster at noon with a similar purpose.
There were similar themes in all the speeches: grief, compassion, a desire to protect freedom of speech, solidarity with the Muslim community and the Jewish community in Sheffield and across Europe.
My own remarks are below. I join my own prayers with those of people everywhere for those who have been victims of these attacks and for our local and national governments at this time.
“We meet together this afternoon in deep sorrow to reflect on the cruel and evil attacks in Paris this week. Our thoughts and prayers and our compassion are with those who mourn the violent death of those they love: with the families and friends of the journalists, the police, the bystanders killed and injured in these atrocities, people of all faiths and none. The terrorists aim is to create fear and so divide us one from another.
We are here today to proclaim that we will not be divided. We are in Sheffield one city with many cultures and faiths within it. As people of all faith and none we respect one another, we treasure what we have in common, we do our best to honour one another, to love one another, to support one another.
We are here today to proclaim that we together, as people of all faiths and none, honour and protect the universal right to freedom of speech and freedom of the press, which has been attacked this week.
We align ourselves with the universal condemnation of these attacks which has come from the Muslim community, the Jewish community, the Christian community and many others in this country and across the world.
We stand with the people of France today in their grief. We make our appeal to all within our own country to reject violence in the name of religion and to seek that peace which is the will of God for all peoples everywhere”.