‘We stand together’ Bishop of Stepney tells Bethnal Green memorial to Westminster victims
PUBLISHED: 13:40 24 March 2017 | UPDATED: 14:18 24 March 2017
The people of London’s East End joined in the mourning for the Westminster terrorist victims at a church that knows tragedy.
The Bishop of Stepney and the Mayor of Tower Hamlets were among many dignitaries to light candles at a hurriedly-arranged public memorial service last night at St John on Bethnal Green church, after Wednesday’s attack on Parliament.
They also laid spring flowers to express solidarity in the service led by Bishop Adrian Newman, who urged neighbours to look after each other.
“The vigil is a public space for people of all faiths and none to grieve, to reject fear and to stand together in solidarity,” the Bishop said.
“This is an important reminder that we should never take our freedoms for granted, but stand side-by-side to defend the diversity of communities like ours.
“Our ‘weapons’ were spring flowers to symbolise life overcoming death, lighting of candles of hope against the darkness of fear and pens mightier than swords to show our commitment to honour and value one another.”
Mayor John Biggs spoke of “a moving tribute” to those who lost their lives or were injured in Wednesday’s attack and declaring that “these cowardly acts will not divide us”.
He stressed: “Londoners of all backgrounds stand together. Our great city has always been and will remain a beacon of freedom, tolerance and diversity.”
St John’s Church has know tragedy in its history. It holds the annual memorial each first Sunday of March for the 173 people killed 74 years ago in Britain’s worst wartime civilian disaster, conducted each year by The Rev Alan Green who chairs Tower Hamlets Inter Faith Forum.
Fthr Green said: “People came together in St John’s at very short notice, representing different politics, faiths, cultures—but united in common grief and determination to maintain diversity.”
St John’s is opposite the Roman Road entrance to Bethnal Green Underground station which was being used during the Second World War as a public air-raid shelter, where a crowd was crushed surging down the narrow steps for safety on the night of March 3, 1943.
The church was used as a temporary mortuary when rescuers brought out the bodies from the shelter. A ‘Stairway to heaven’ memorial is nearing completion at Bethnal Green Gardens, opposite the church.