Birmingham Rally for Peace – A Reflection by Canon Gerry Breen, Dean of St Chad’s Cathedral

“United Birmingham – One City – One Voice for Peace”

A reflection by Canon Gerry Breen, Dean of the Metropolitan Cathedral and Basilica of St Chad, situated near Birmingham city centre:

Under the banner “United Birmingham – One City – One Voice for Peace” the Peace Rally,  held in Summerfield Park on Sunday 14 August, brought together people from every faith along with civic and political leaders supported by the Emergency Services whose members come from the families of our multi-cultural community – all citizens of our great City of Birmingham.

The Rally  in the Winson Green area of Birmingham was a firm united public response to the recent civil unrest on our streets which had such tragic consequences.

The minority of young people who were caught up in the rioting and looting were a stark contrast to the young people who came to the Rally to condemn the action of some of their peers and  to affirm pride in our City and hope for all our futures.

As we gathered in Birmingham, Archbishop Bernard Longley, leading a pilgrimage of 300 young people from the Archdiocese of Birmingham to World Youth Day in Madrid, offered Mass and prayers to coincide with the Rally.

Some 4,000 youngsters from the U.K. have made the same journey in faith. A more accurate image of the majority of our young people!

Having listened to the various addresses made by the speakers, there were recurring and common themes: respect for life and the dignity of everyone created by God; love and care of neighbour; forgiveness and compassion; tolerance and humility; justice and peace. A Creed for us all!

Welcomed with due respect was Tariq Jahan whose son Haroon, aged 21, was tragically killed during the early hours of the morning of Wednesday 10 August  during the rioting. Mr Jahan has been rightly credited as being the voice of calm and reason in the midst of the troubles.

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Mr Tariq Jahan pictured during the Rally for Peace.

He implored the community, both innocent and guilty, to end violence and not seek senseless recrimination. Most profoundly, in one of his many television interviews calling for peace, he concluded by saying of his son: “May Allah forgive him and bless him!”

This is a prayer familiar to many which is found at the heart of our Catholic Liturgy for the faithful departed. If only all people could acknowledge their need for God and his forgiveness!

As we leave behind a dark week in our City’s history we look forward to the future with renewed hope.

I invite all people of faith to pray following Inter-Faith Prayer for our City and all its citizens:

   O God, you are the source of life and peace.

   Praised be your name forever.

   We know it is you who turns our minds to thoughts of peace.

   Hear our prayer in this time of crisis.

   Your power changes hearts.

 

   Muslims, Christians and Jews remember, and profoundly affirm,

   that they are followers of the one God,

   Children of Abraham and brothers and sisters.

   Enemies begin to speak to one another;

   those who were estranged join hands in friendship;

   communities seek the way of peace together.

 

   Strengthen our resolve to give witness to these truths

   by the way we live.

   Give to us:

   understanding that puts an end to strife;

   mercy that quenches hatred;

   and forgiveness that overcomes vengeance.

   Empower all people to live in your law of love.

   Amen.

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Birmingham Faith Leaders pictured during the Birmingham Rally for Peace in Summerfield Park, Winston Green, on Sunday 14 August 2011.

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The Lord Mayor of Birmingham Councillor Anita Ward, pictured during the two-hour Birmingham Rally for Peace.

 

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The Chief Constable of the West Midlands, Chris Sims pictured with Birmingham Faith Leaders before the start of the Birmingham Rally for Peace.

 

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Fr Richard Duffield, Provost of the Birmingham Oratory, the Chief Constable of the West Midlands, Chris Sims, and Canon Gerry Breen, Dean of St Chad's Cathedral, Birmingham, pictured during the Birmingham Rally for Peace.

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Sister Thèrése O’Brien, Pastoral Assistant at St Chad's Cathedral, Birmingham, pictured during the Birmingham Rally for Peace.

 

About the author

Peter Jennings is a well known Catholic journalist, writer, broadcaster and PR consultant. Based in Birmingham UK.

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