Leaders from the main religious communities across Stoke-on-Trent are today (23 Jan) making a united stand against an anti-Muslim march which they believe is inciting racism, intolerance and xenophobia in the area.
The so-called English Defence League is due to march in Stoke on Saturday 23 January 2010, and the police and local authorities say they are worried about disturbances, with vigorous opposition protests planned.
Meanwhile, Christian, Muslim, Jewish and Sikh leaders will light a candle and sign a pledge of unity outside Stoke Minster (the church of St Peter ad Vincula) opposite Stoke Town Hall.
The Anglican Bishop of Stafford, Gordon Mursell, is one of those taking part in the united witness against racism He explained: “If Stoke-on-Trent is to have a good future, it is absolutely vital that all its citizens, irrespective of creed and background, work together for the common good."
Bishop Mursell added: "We believe that real diversity actually helps create a vibrant and attractive city. The English Defence League and the British National Party think the opposite. That is why we oppose them.”
The Catholic Auxiliary Bishop for North Staffordshire, David McGough, added: “We must all oppose any extremism that would play on people's fears and anxieties to divide our city and set one section of our community against another.”
Gurmeet Singh Kallar, a member of Stoke’s Gurdwara, said: “As Sikhs, we believe that all people are important to God and we are against the persecution of any group or minority.”
And Peter Barber, Chair of the Chester and Stoke-on-Trent Methodist Circuit said: “As faith leaders we have a special duty to show that different communities can live together is harmony and mutual respect. We oppose those who would try to divide us by hate and fear.”
Humanists in the area also plan to join the action against racism and division in Stoke.
The faith leaders are coming together using some famous words attributed to the anti-Nazi pastor, Martin Niemoller: "First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out — because I was not a communist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out — because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out — because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me — and there was no one left to speak out."
Niemoller was a German theologian and Lutheran pastor, founder of the Bekennende Kirche (Confessing Church) in 1934, and a president of the World Council of Churches from 1961 to 1968