Tuesday 19 March 2019

Vigil remembers the lives lost in Christchurch and pledges to fight hatred with hope and love

Over 100 people came together at a vigil in Aberdeen's St Nicholas Square on 18th March, to remember all those killed in the terror atrocity in two mosques in Christchurch and to stand in solidarity with our Muslim brothers and sisters in the North East of Scotland.

The vigil was compered by ATUC President, Sasha Brydon. He told those gathered that the vigil was to give people an opportunity to come together to express our deepest condolences to all those who lost loved ones in the terrible shootings in two mosques in Christchurch last week and to express our outrage that once again, the politics of hate have resulted in the deaths of 50 innocent people who were doing no more than peacefully practicing their religion.

Sasha said, "We wanted to stand in solidarity with our Muslim communities in the North East of Scotland as we have stood with other communities before now who have been the victims of senseless violence for no more reason than they have a different religion or race or gender.

"But most of all we want to pledge to continue our fight against all forms of extremism, to oppose the politics of hate wherever they raise their head. The rise of the far right is a stain on us all and we will stand against it with hope and with love," pledged Sasha.

Speaker after speaker condemned the killings and urged us all to stand together against hatred and to fight it with hope and love.

Noor from the Aberdeen Mosque read out a statement from Imam Ibrahim thanking the people of the North East for their solidarity and support. He said that terrorists and terrorism have no specific faith or religion or race; that it does not represent any of us and we should not generalise that against any religious group or community becausethey are criminals and do not represent anyone but themselves.

"So how you all feel and how you are very supportive and feel sympathy with the Muslim community exactly - this is how we feel when a person who claims to be Muslim or to belong to Islamic background but doesn’t represent us at all, commits a similar crime against the non-Muslim community due to religious hatred and causes losses. 

"They are all the same. We are all targeted and we are all attacked and we all need to stand together united against the evil."

Councillor Malik said that he was heartbroken and outraged by the Christchurch terrorist attack on Muslims in a place of worship and pledged that "on this day, and every day, we join in solidarity with the Muslim community, to honour the victims of hate-fueled violence with action and to combat hate and bigotry in all of its forms."

He told those gathered that Imam Ali the first caliphate of Islam says that a person is either your brother in faith, or your equal in humanity.

"We are all equal in humanity regardless of our views or political views and we all must unite against hatred and terror which has no place in the world."

Cllr Malik called for us to stand together now more than ever and stand in solidarity with the victims of this attack to drive out the hate.

"We must go forward to show that hatred will not be allowed to flourish in any nation. Tolerance and respect for others is a vital aspect necessary for our communities to stand together. This is our moment to show that tolerance, mutual respect and unity can and will prevail against hatred."

Keith Paterson, who had recently returned from Christchurch told of his horror and sadness on hearing the terrible news from a peaceful and welcoming country.

Keith warned, “Although we have to fight racism in all its forms, it is islamaphobia which is the dominant form taken by racism today. We need to combat that whether from mainstream politicians or the extreme right”

Aberdeen Provost, Barney Crockettsaid a few words, telling us how proud he was that Aberdeen was so welcoming of people from all over the world of all faiths and ethnicity. 

He said, "Here we are again, standing together against fascism today as we did in the past."

Kate Ramsden spoke of the sadness, anger and other emotions we all feel at this senseless act of hate. She condemned the right-wing rhetoric and policies of the Tory government for creating fertile ground for the rise of the far right.

"If the terrible events in Christchurch tell us anything it’s that instead of judging we need compassion; we need to be able to walk a mile in each others’ shoes; we need to work together to combat the rise of extremism.

"Those of us here tonight – we share each other’s sadness at such a brutal loss of life; we share each other’s anger at the rise of hate and extremism that resulted in this terrible atrocity.

"But we also come together to pledge that we will do everything in our power to promote understanding, empathy and compassion and to fight the vicious rhetoric that sets people against each other and results in murderous acts like the one in Christchurch."

Jacob Campbell read out a statement from Lewis Macdonald, MSP who couldn't be with us. Lewis sent best wishes to Aberdeen Trades Union Council in showing solidarity with the victims of the terror attacks in New Zealand. He will meet members of the Muslim community in Aberdeen later this week.

Jacob read, “An attack on any community on the grounds of race, religion, nationality or culture is an attack on us all, and an attack on our common humanity. Such violence and hatred must be opposed at every turn.

“Solidarity against the politics and ideology of hate should unite us, today and every day, and ATUC are to be congratulated on taking a lead in that today.”

Doug Haywood warned that we must never allow this violence to become normal and we must stand against the tactic of the right to weaponise fear and hate.

Doug urged, "We must stand in solidarity with those the pedallers of hate would seek to “other”. 

"We must stand up in our workplaces, our schools, our streets. In our homes, clubs and when we’re socialising. We must challenge this fear and hate wherever we find it, however it rears its head.

While today is a time for grief and sadness, as we move on we have to recognise that acquiescence and indifference are part of the problem. We must stand up."

The final speaker was Fiona Robertson of Disabled People against the Cuts. She echoed calls for unity and said that we must not allow the political climate to sow divisions between us.

"Disabled people are often set against refugees and other vulnerable people, as if there wasn't enough resources for us all in the fifth richest economy in the world.

"We must stand together to combat hatred and division," urged Fiona.

With many thanks to Renee Slater and Jacob Campbell for the photography.

Thanks also to Fiona Napier, Keith Paterson, Kate Ramsden and Doug Haywood for organising the event for the ATUC.