A group of prominent civic and faith leaders from across the UK travelled to France for a series of interfaith solidarity events in the run up to the first anniversary of the Paris attacks as part of an initiative which includes engagements across Paris and Rouen at key locations associated with the terrorist attacks. The aim of the trip was to highlight unity and reinforce the bonds of solidarity between international communities, at a time when terrorists are desperately trying to tear societies apart.

Faiths Forum for London (FFL), an interfaith group based which empowers religious communities to work together for a better London. organised the trip, in partnership with prominent UK and French community leaders, in hosting memorial events and community engagements as a way to offer their support through dialogue and action.

A series of attacks, on November 13, 2015, left 130 people dead and hundreds injured. The attacks, which French President François Hollande described as an “act of war,” was organised by the Islamic State militant group. The shootings and suicide attacks targeted the Stade de France stadium, crowded streets that housed popular nightlife spots and the Bataclan concert hall.

As part of the Normandy trip, the group met members of Rouen’s local faith communities to reflect on shared values before attending mass at the church of St Étienne, the place of Father Jacques Hamel’s senseless murder.

The following day, in Paris, they met with members of the local Jewish community, attended midday prayers at the Paris Grand Mosque and paid their respects to victims of the Paris attacks at the Bataclan Theatre. 

Mustafa Field MBE, Director of Faiths Forum for London (launched in 2010) and lead organiser, said: “The purpose of the trip was to show that, as a global society, together we stand united, tolerant, open and unwilling to bend to the will of those who seek to divide us through violence and fear. We wanted to undermine Daesh’s core proposition, encouraging war and hatred between the West and Islam.”

Imam of Al-Khoei Foundation (Paris), Shaykh Murtadha Al-Khaliq, said: “While there may be differences in our language, culture and perhaps faith, what binds all mankind should be humanity and empathy. Welcoming our brothers from the UK was a powerful reminder about the value of our personal connection to all communities across the world.”