Hundreds of residents from all faiths and backgrounds gathered in Accrington town centre for a poignant and determined show of solidarity with Manchester following the terror attack.
Families, children, and community and religious leaders attended St James Church for a multi-faith peace vigil.
The 30-minute ceremony included an impeccably observed minute’s silence for the 22 people who lost their lives and the 150 people injured in the suicide bombing at the Ariana Grande concert at Manchester Arena on Monday night.
A book of condolence was available to sign and many people left flowers, cards and candles in memory of those who lost their lives.
The ceremony, 24 hours after a similar vigil was attended by hundreds of people in Great Harwood, was introduced by Rev Ian Enticott, vicar of St James Church, who said the trauma witnessed by the victims will live with them for ‘days, months if not years’.
He told the crowd: “We come with great sadness as we remember people, many of whom we will know and have been affected by the atrocity in Manchester on Monday evening.
“I think it’s quite right that we meet together as religious leaders and civic leaders in our horror at the atrocity that was committed, in our sadness, in our anger, and to stand together against the perpetrators of such violence.
“One of the things that stood out for me was that many of those who announced the news on Tuesday morning themselves broke down in tears.
“I think that is the correct response for all of us, to grieve at the loss that was experienced by so many people and which has affected so many.”
Allama Abdul Saeed, an Imam at the Grimshaw Street Mosque, said the terror attackers were ‘senseless people who committed barbaric acts’.
He said: “All Muslims are deeply horrified and saddened by the awful attack in Manchester Arena where 22 people lost their lives and 64 are injured.
“Our thoughts, our prayers, are with those who have been killed or injured in this senseless act of violence that cannot be tolerated. We are with those families who are suffering from this very hard time.
“We must remain united against these types of threats that affect all of us equally and we have to be careful and aware about what can happen in public places.
“Islam turns our attention to the high value of human life, whether male or female, Muslim or non-Muslim, and makes it absolutely forbidden to take an innocent life unjustly.
“The gravity of such a crime is equated in the holy Quran to the killing of the humanity.”
Abdul Alim Kheratkar, secretary of the Lancashire Council of Mosques, said he hopes the terror attack will not lead to a rise in hate crimes.
He said: “For such an attack to take place at an arena filled with children and young people is truly heartbreaking.
“The Lancashire Council of Mosques and the whole of the Muslim community of Lancashire strongly condemns this terrible act and commends the swift response and incredible bravery of our emergency services.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims of this terrible act of violence. It has no place in Islam or any religion.
“It is common for there to be a sharp rise in hate crimes and incidents after such an event which is one of the aims of such attacks.
“As such we ask and urge everyone, Muslims, non-Muslims, Christians, of whatever faith or no faith to stand together, remain vigilant and look out for each other. As ever, our greatest strength is our unity.”
Fr Simon Stamp, speaking on behalf of the Roman catholic community, told the crowd: “Our prayer on behalf of all the Catholic community here in Accrington is that peace will soon become a reality everywhere on Earth, especially in heats and minds which are darkened by hatred and fear.
“Particularly, the prayers and thoughts of the Catholic community in Accrington to all those who were affected in that attack, to those who have lost loved ones, to those who were injured, and to those who have lost their lives.”
Hyndburn Mayor Peter Britcliffe praised the community spirit in the borough and said the ‘merciless terrorists will never win’.
He said: “Some of us will be here because we feel angry, some of us will be here because we feel sad, many of you like me will just quite simply be abhorrent of the events that took place on Monday evening in Manchester.
“It’s very difficult at a time like this to find something good out of what has happened. But yet tonight I can see something good, I can see the people of Hyndburn coming together as a community.
“The merciless terrorists will never win while we have the type of community spirit that we have here in Hyndburn. And those who seek to drive us apart are actually bringing us together.
“Our thoughts go out to the families, the victims and to the people of Manchester at this time. I hope they will draw some comfort from the fact that we’ve had such a wonderful number of people attend our vigil this evening.
“As long as we have that community spirit, these terrorists will never win.”