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Bishop, Imam and Rabbi lead interfaith Orlando vigil at PinkNews Awards

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A Church of England Bishop, an Imam from the Inclusive Mosque and a Liberal Jewish Rabbi led interfaith vigil for victims of the Orlando Pulse massacre at the PinkNews Awards last night.

The PinkNews Awards celebrate the contributions of politicians, businesses and community groups towards what has been another historic year for LGBT equality in the UK and around the world.

Guests attended the event at Speaker’s House in Parliament and One Great George Street, where a number of high-profile figures received awards.

At the start of the Awards Dinner, a minute’s silence was held in remembrance of victims of the Orlando massacre earlier this year.

It was led by Alan Wilson, the Bishop of Buckingham, Liberal Jewish Rabbi René Pfertzel, and Imam Halima Gosai Hussain from the Inclusive Mosque.

Rabbi René said: “If someone’s faith leads them to kill, to hate, to despise, or even to judge another human being, then this person’s faith is highly questionable. The problem does not come from God or any religious faith, the problem comes from us: frail and limited human beings, and the violence that sometimes we convey.

“The God revealed in our sacred texts is a God of justice, tampered by compassion. The core teaching of Judaism is the sanctity of life: no-one has a right to take a life, and nothing can ever justify a murder.

“There is no word strong enough to express our horror after the Orlando shooting. There is no excuse to explain the distorted views of religion by the perpetrator. We mourn the victims of this terrible slaughter, and will always promote a society that protects equality and respect for all forms of life.”

Halima Gosai Hussain said: “Many of us have never had the experience of feeling unsafe in the spaces we frequent.

“For many in the LGBT community, dance clubs are a sanctuary. The one place they can love openly, without looking over their shoulder. This was a massacre in a sanctuary.

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“The attack had the potential to pit two persecuted communities against one another, the queer community and the Muslim community.

“But we have seen story after story of solidarity between the communities. I was blessed to be invited to a big gay Iftar that took place during Ramadan just after the attacks.

“Another one of these examples is the organisation I represent, the Inclusive Mosque initiative. That’s right: I’m a female Imam. The great Sufi poet Rumi wrote, the wound is the place the light enters you.

“May this horrendous event lead each and every community, especially communities of faith, to think about where we stand in respect to LGBT peoples.

“My prayer is for every church, every temple, every mosque, because if it already isn’t, it may become a loving, accepting, affirming space. May our spaces of faith be spaces of healing, not ones to foster hated or self-hatred.”

The Bishop of Buckingham, a long-time supporter of LGBT equality, said: “At the time [of Orlando] I was involved in a queer theology conference in the Caribbean.

“The news came through from Pulse, and it took me back to the Admiral Duncan days. I felt sick, about the whole thing, to the bottom of my boots.

“What we’re going to do is have a moment to collect our solidarity with those in the LGBT community all over the world, who are under all kinds of pressure and persecution simply for who they are.”

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn noted the poignant moment in his keynote speech.

He said: “Thirty years ago if you had asked me whether I would be now, in 2016, the leader of the Labour Party at an awards ceremony celebrating the LGBT community and I’d be sharing a platform with the world’s three great religions – affirming their belief in LBGT equality I’d have had my doubts about what they were saying.

“I would like to thank Rabbi Rene, Alan Wilson, the Bishop of Buckingham and Halima Gosai Hussain from the Inclusive Mosque for being here tonight and for what you said, and the importance of their message for so many people of faith communities.”

The PinkNews Awards is headlined sponsored by Lloyds Banking Group.

Bishop, Imam and Rabbi lead interfaith Orlando vigil at PinkNews Awards

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