Over 120 people, the majority of whom were from the local Muslim and Jewish communities, met in Hale last week for a silent vigil for peace in the Middle East at the invitation of Altrincham Interfaith Group.
Elinor Chohan MBE introduced the event, which was welcomed as being dignified, uplifting and positive in bringing local communities together in solidarity. A bell rang, initiating a profound 20-minute period of silence. In this shared stillness, Jews and Muslims sat side by side, bowing their heads in a collective reflection for resolution to the longstanding conflict that has divided Israel and Palestine.
The diverse attendees echoed a common sentiment – a yearning for peaceful coexistence and collaboration in an atmosphere of mutual respect. The vigil clearly demonstrated that hate and violence have no place within this community, aligning with the truth that “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that,” echoing the wisdom of Dr Martin Luther King Jr.
Both sides have their own and differing narratives, but the commonality is that there are civilian casualties and human suffering on both sides. Contemplating the occasion, attendees conveyed a deep sense of positivity, departing from the event with uplifted spirits and a hopeful outlook. There is now an appeal for leaders to draw inspiration from the community’s unity, fostering collaboration to bring an end to the sorrowful conflict, and seeking a resolution that acknowledges the diverse needs and aspirations of those affected.
Tom Ross, Leader of Trafford Council, commented on the significance of the vigil, stating, “We have all been shocked by the harrowing events in the Middle East, and the vigil was an opportunity for people from different communities in Trafford to come together, reflect, and pray for peace in the region.”
Rabbi Yisroel Binstock of Hale Synagogue, remarked, “There was a powerful and palpable energy in the room as friends and neighbours of all faiths and none gathered in silence together, united in our heartfelt desire for peace. I wish we could share that moment with others; it is difficult to heal a fractured world, but we can do it one village at a time.”
Elinor Chohan, Chair of AIG, reflected on the event, expressing, “In the tranquil silence, a healing essence pervaded, and the collective presence was powerful. It is my sincere hope that such gatherings can serve as a guiding light, illuminating a path for our communities to coexist harmoniously as neighbours and friends.”
Nasser Kurdy, surgeon and Imam said, “In this collective effort to transcend religious boundaries and come together in solidarity for peace, the Altrincham Interfaith Group exemplifies the potential for positive change that can occur when diverse communities unite for a common purpose. Strong friendships forged over the years are being severely tested and strained but they will not be broken for we all share a unified understanding of humanity. Being part of this gathering was very humbling and like everyone there, I left with a renewed sense of hope. I pray for the end of hostilities and the end of the senseless loss of lives. I pray that innocent people can return to their innocence and I pray for peace, prosperity and security for all people of Israel and Palestine.”
Carolyn Jones, Secretary AIG