in News June 19, 2018

A Year On From Finsbury Park Attack, Our Sense of Unity Has Never Shined Brighter

As the sun went down on a recent June evening in London, over 1,000 people shared a meal on a street in Finsbury park. The event, which saw people of all faiths and none enjoy an iftar – the meal that breaks the Ramadan fast during the holy month – was an incredible show of community spirit..

However, the size of the gathering also represented the more sobering reason it took place. It has been almost one year since Darren Osborne purposely drove his van into a group of Muslim worshippers outside Finsbury Park Mosque in a sickening act of terror. The people at the iftar not only wanted to connect with their neighbours, but to exhibit a show of defiance; a determination to prove that, even after a year’s passing, this pocket of north London is still united against extremism in all forms.

The event was both iftar and street party. Better still, it is just one example of a spirit that is evident throughout the UK. Mosques, community groups, and interfaith organisations across the country have spent the past few years organising events and enacting initiatives that bring people together, counter divisions and dispel misunderstandings.

Some examples are small, but no less powerful in the message they convey. Take the #TurnToLove campaign for instance. The online movement asks people of all ages and backgrounds to spread messages of unity, peace and understanding across social media. While it’s easy to dismiss online posts as empty posturing, the way the campaign has inspired so many tweets suggest these acts of kindness really are happening in the real world.

And if you’re still not convinced, there’s plenty going on away from the digital space. Recently at Faiths Forum, we launched the My Voice project. The initiative works to equip young Muslims with the skills to make their opinions heard and put them forward with conviction. With in-depth training led by communications professionals, the participants will be able to speak their own truth while dismantling the falsehoods that fuel bigotry, hatred and division.

By providing young people with a sense of agency, the My Voice project aims to prevent vulnerable demographics from falling victim to dangerous narratives or influences. Along with instilling a sense of confidence and purpose, the training will be based on an informed understanding of inequality, radicalisation and sectarianism. It is only by increasing our knowledge of these social ills that we can hope to resolve them.

When the Finsbury Park attack took place last June, the country had already endured a number of tragedies in the months prior. It was a difficult summer, made even harder by the year that preceded it. Social and political divisions had shaken the country and, for many, the widespread upheavals culminated in the murder of MP Jo Cox in June 2016. When terror attacks shook London and Manchester a year later, many took comfort in the late MPs words: “we are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us.”

To continue to repeat the quote two years later makes its seem almost habitual. But seeing this month’s iftar in Finsbury Park, and the projects that share its spirit, only proves how relevant it still is.

in News June 19, 2018