On Friday 25th March 2016 in Bury Park, Luton, there was a new twist to the traditional Good Friday Walk of Witness by local churches. As the large group of Christians passed Central Mosque on Westbourne Road, Muslim members of that mosque and others in Luton gathered to greet them and pass out gifts of candles carrying the message of peace in both English and Arabic. A number of them then walked in solidarity with their Christian neighbours up the hill to the Holy Ghost Catholic Church.
A video of the walk can be found here.
Greeting the group, Ashfaq Ahmed from Central Mosque said "We are gifting you with these candles which say 'Peace'. This really has become the theme and strength of Luton now".
“Today is a great example of how faith communities can live alongside each other in a spirit of mutual respect” said David Kesterton, Church of England Vicar of All Saints and St Peters and whose parish covers a large part of Bury Park. “Muslims and Christians are developing closer ties of friendship and trust in our part of Luton. In the light of recent events in Brussels and elsewhere, it is important we witness together to the desire for peace that is at the heart of both our faiths.”
Rehana Faisal who initiated the event said: “We have had enough of outsiders and extremists like Britain First dominating conversations around our town. Today, we wanted to highlight the good relationships that we have built in Luton and our ongoing commitment to living peaceably alongside one another"
Lots of people had heard of the initiative, and there were warm greetings as the church group made their way through the busy shopping area. Some shop keepers offered food and drinks, but church leaders explained Good Friday is a quiet and reflective part of their tradition.
Around the nation in towns and villages churches often join together on Good Friday to carry a cross around their neighbourhood. In Luton things are no different – despite the common story that it is a no-go zone for Christians. Around the town walks took place in Leagrave, Limbury, Farley Hill, Stopsley, Bury Park and the town centre. In the town centre six churches joined together, and the procession with the cross, accompanied by the Salvation Army band, made its way to the Town Hall and on to St Mary's Church where the cross was planted in the ground.