I’d like to begin by welcoming everyone to the Minster this afternoon, and at such short notice and during the working day. This event is organised by Calderdale Interfaith Council and the Calderdale Council of Mosques, supported by The Local Authority and West Yorkshire Police. I’m delighted to welcome Chris Harris in her role as Deputy Lord Lieutenant and Marcus Thompson as Mayor of Calderdale. I’m also delighted that Holly Lynch MP for Halifax has managed to make it back from London, and to see cross party representation in these weeks leading up to the local elections. Its really good to welcome people of many different faiths and none to this Minster Church, founded by a Benedictine Foundation, who saw the role of the Minster as providing daily worship and meaningful hospitality, which I hope is evident not just today, but with increasing visitor numbers and events, something we try to do here every day. I’m equally saddened to be standing here today, after the terrible attack on fellow Christians in Sri Lanka on Easter Day.

This event on the other side of the world became more real for me, when my former MP for Withington and close friend, Keith Bradley, now a Working Peer in the Lords, contacted me to say both his sister and brother in law had died in the attack. Sally had been a GP and her husband a Firefighter. I recently read an account that described children coming to front of the church and one of the suicide bombers moving to be with the children before his detonated his bomb. I can’t begin to imagine what possessed or drove him to perform such an atrocity and cruel act, and how one could ever justify such behaviour in a civilised society in the 21st century. It was only a few weeks ago that many of us met at the Madni Mosque, to express our solidarity and horror following the NZ attack, and the death of many of our Muslim brothers and sisters. I’m greatly saddened, that yet again, religion is the focus for terrorism and murder, and that religion is somehow manipulated as the justifying means of this wickedness.

This is so far from the truth that Religion tries to bring to the world, and these fanatics are not religious followers of a loving and peaceful God, they have nothing to do with Religion, only their own sense of power over others, and their desire to inflict misery on others, and whole communities and nations. Fear is what they peddle, and we now see it closer to home, following not only the death of Jo Cox, but now Lyra McKee.

Last night I was at Old Trafford, and saw armed Police on the streets on Manchester, trying to reassure and protect, for fear that a football match provided a useful situation in which to cause harm. Here in Calderdale, we have the local elections – I’m saddened to see the National Front and Britain First standing for election, for I’m concerned that their history tells us they want to divide our communities and not stand up for tolerance and cohesion, and for the resilient communities that make up this Borough, that many of us have been building for many years. Bigotry and Racism have no place in Calderdale, and we need to ensure it stays that way and that Hate Crime is always reported and challenged. Calderdale is a place of hope, where despite the challenges we face, we don’t take social cohesion for granted. We work at this at many different levels every day of the year, challenging hurtful words and opinions and celebrating the rich diversity that makes Calderdale what it is today.

In this religious Christian building, we look to the Easter Candle as a sign of hope, that God’s love for the world can never be extinguished, that light always overcomes darkness, and that good will always overcome evil. I’m pleased to be working in Calderdale as a faith leader, because relationships with politicians and other faiths are strong and resilient, and not only should Calderdale strive to be the best Borough in the north, but the best at making Communities work: resilient, hardworking, diverse, and caring. My hope today is that we will continue to strive for all that is good in this world and across this town and borough, that we commit to building a fairer society in which everyone can flourish, and a place where children are safe to play, adults can peacefully grow old, and people of faith can happily go to Church, Mosque, Temple, Gurdwara, Synagogue, or walk in the Pennines, whatever faith they choose to follow, in the knowledge that they are free to do so and without fear or intimidation.

Canon Hilary Barber 25 April 2019