A peace vigil will take place in Sheffield as the city ‘pulls together’ in the wake of the New Zealand mosque terror attacks.
People of all religions, and those of no faith, are due to gather at the Peace Gardens in the city centre at 7pm today to pay their respects to those killed in the Christchurch shootings.
People of all faiths have also been invited to join Muslims taking part in the usual Friday prayers at mosques across the city at 1pm, in a show of solidarity.
And Muslim leaders say they have been in touch with police about providing reassurance to worshippers worried about the potential for ‘copycat’ attacks in the UK.
Forty-nine people were killed and at least 20 wounded as two mosques in the city were targeted in the deadliest shootings in the country’s history.
Muhammad Ali, chairman of Sheffield’s Pakistan Muslim Centre, said it was important people pulled together at times like these and did not ‘let the terrorists beat us’.
“As news of the attacks has come in this morning, I’ve had lots of calls from other mosques and from different faith leaders sending their prayers,” he said.
“Sheffield always pulls together at times like these and it’s good to see that happening again. We must not let terrorists beat us.
“These were diabolical attacks by people hiding behind the cloak of religion, with no affection or value for human lives, which dent the humanity at large across the globe.
“We’re expecting lots of people at the peace vigil this evening from all faiths who will be standing shoulder to shoulder in solidarity with those who have lost their lives in New Zealand.
“There will also be large gatherings at mosques across the city this afternoon as people pray for those killed and their families, and we invite people of all faiths to join us for those prayers.
“People are also being asked to be vigilant, and we’ve been in touch with police, given the worries about copycat crimes spreading the message of hate.
“The victims of these terrible attacks were innocent people going into mosques to do their normal prayers.”
Dr Alan Billings, South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner, joined those condemning the attacks and said police would do ‘everything necessary’ to ensure the safety of the region's Muslim community.
He said: “The attack on mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, was an act of gross cowardice and an assault on all religions.
“It shows clearly why we have to learn to live with differences, especially in a world that is becoming ever more plural.
“Hate crimes, however small, need to be dealt with, not least because where hatreds breed, violent acts of this kind can be contemplated by a few malcontents.
“In South Yorkshire, whatever community we come from, we will all stand together to stop our communities being places of fear or division.
“I want to reassure members of the Muslim community that South Yorkshire police will do everything necessary to ensure their safety.”