It was a windy night in November when about 200 people from across the city gathered on College Green for a candle-lit
peace vigil in the wake of the Paris attacks. It was organised hastily and spontaneously by local agencies and individuals
including Bristol Muslim Cultural Society (BMCS); Council of Bristol Mosques; Building the Bridge; Somali Community
Organisations; Stand Against Racism & Inequality (SARI); Bristol Multi-Faith Forum and others.
It was an opportunity to pay our respects to all those who lost their lives or have been devastated by acts of terrorism in Paris
and also in Beirut, Turkey, Egypt, Syria and elsewhere. Also to stand united as peaceful multi-cultural, multi-faith and richly
diverse communities in Bristol - our city, where so many people and agencies work tirelessly to keep our communities safe
and together. Firstly we were outside, listening to speeches and prayers from a whole range of people. Then, the Cathedral
opened its doors and invited everyone inside to place their candles – and it was a time for quiet reflection and shared prayer.
Speakers included, amongst others: Cllr Afzal Shah; Arif Khan, the Chair of the Council of Mosques; Rev Tracey Lewis, Chair
of Bristol Multi-Faith Forum; Rev James Wilson; Zaheer Shabir, Chair of Building the Bridge; Peter Brill from Salaam Shalom;
Kamlesh Vyas from the Hindu Temple; George Ferguson, the Mayor of Bristol; Alex Raikes, Director of SARI.
We were asked by several people for a copy of the speech given by our Chair Revd Tracey Lewis, so here it is...
Bristol Multi-Faith Forum exists to bring people of the different faith communities in this diverse city together, to grow in
friendship with one another and speak together within the life of the city. It is my great honour to be speaking on behalf of
Bristol Multi-Faith Forum this evening as we, citizens of this City of Bristol, stand together in solidarity with one another and
with all those who, in the aftermath of terrible acts of terrorism in this past week, long for peace in the world.
In August this year, after a harrowing few hours in the 9/11 museum in New York, I walked slowly around the memorial at
ground zero. The names of all those who died that day (September 11th 2001) are simply written around the edge of a great,
deep hole. The dark empty chasm that that act of violence has left in the life of the world. When it happened we all said … ‘the
world will be changed by this.’ … and it has been. The question of ‘How’ the world would be changed was soon overwhelmed
by the launch of the ‘war on terror’ that we have engaged in since and heard renewed calls for this weekend as
people have been left reeling after another week of dreadful attacks on innocent people.
But, whatever else we dare say today when again we stand together to mourn the deaths of the innocent in Beirut and France,
with memories of so many others in our recent past, one thing we can painfully see is that our ‘war on terror’ is not working.
We have launched counter attacks, we have engaged in wars, we have dropped bombs and committed and lost the lives of
troops … and it is not working. Responding to violence with violence …. however righteous it may feel in our grief and outrage
…. responding to violence with violence … only breeds more violence … and we are all caught in its trap.
There is something in this world, in this time, among people, communities, nations and as a global society … there is
something that we are getting very wrong. If we are here this evening to stand together for peace …. then we are here to challenge
ourselves and our leaders and our world … as much as to challenge those who commit acts of terrorism and take the lives of
the innocent. It is a wise word that says …. “Be the change you want to see.”
The challenge of peace is : - To recognize and give up those natural instincts towards violence and retaliation. The ways in
which we jump in with words and actions to damn and extinguish those who commit such acts. And instead be committed,
utterly committed, to finding another way with one another to challenge the violent and resolve conflict. Peace is a huge
The challenge of peace is : - To value the lives of each and every human being … to say again and again in everything we do
and with everyone we meet …. That life, all life and all lives … are sacred. If we are to bring about peace we must start with
challenging discrimination, exclusion, injustice … the places where violence finds its roots and its energy. The challenge of
peace is to dare to meet the person who challenges you … with humanity, humility and a commitment to value and respect
them. To be different … but human together. Peace is a huge challenge.
The challenge of peace is : - To live today, in the place where you are, with the people you meet …. in the way you long for the
whole world to be.
In the centre of Bristol there is a statue to Edmund Burke, who said, “All it takes for evil to prevail is for good people to do
nothing.” Tonight we are here, good people, to do something! To stand together and commit our selves, with our whole being,
words and actions, to making peace possible for the world we share with all people. Revd Tracey Lewis Chair of BMFF
Source: Bristol Multi-Faith Forum Newsletter - Download Complete .PDF Version: Click Here
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, Candle Lit