Churches at the forefront as Londoners say no to racism

On a beatiful summer's morning, people gathered at Underground, rail, tram and bus stations to say no to racism and remind Londoners that there is strength in diversity.

The demonstrations were organised by London Citizens - the London branch of community organising coalition Citizens UK.

It draws it membership from faith groups, charities, unions and schools - with Christian groups and churches making up the biggest chunk of the membership.

Shadwell DLR station in east LondonAndy Walton
Rev Alexandra Lilley and Canon Dr Angus RitchieAndy Walton

Members of St George-in-the-East, St Paul's Shadwell and St Mary's, Cable Street joined together at Shadwell DLR station to hand our badges which said, "Love London: No Place For Hate."

Rev Alexandra Lilley, Curate at St Paul's, Shadwell told Christian Today: "We're here to show that a tiny minority are not going to spoil it for everyone. London is diverse and we want to show love and hope for our community."

Canon Dr Angus Ritchie, Priest-in-Charge at St George-in-the-East said, "London has a strong tradition of welcoming people from all backgrounds which we continue to champion. As London Citizens we are clear that there is no justification for hate crime, and our members wish to show that love will always trump hate. The rise in incidents is extremely concerning, and so alongside displaying solidarity we urge any individual who has been impacted to report the incident to authorities."

Commuters were offered a sticker to wear on their way to work but many were also given a leaflet which explained what to do in case of being the victim of, or witnessing, a racist incident on public transport or elsewhere. Calling the police is essential in such a case - and many of those demonstrating today were determined to intervene and show solidarity with victims of racist incidents.

Highbury & Islington Tube and Overground stationAndy Walton
Handing out stickersAndy Walton

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan said he was delighted to see the demonstrations of solidarity which were taking place across London - from Wimbledon to Walthamstow and from Finchley to Ilford.

Khan said, "As a Mayor for all Londoners, I take seriously my responsibility to defend the capital's fantastic diversity. I will operate a zero tolerance approach to any attempt to hurt and divide our communities, and I have asked the Met Police to be extra vigilant in tackling this deeply worrying rise in hate crime. London doesn't just tolerate difference, it celebrates it, so it's great to see London Citizens' members rallying together to show that there is no place for division in our communities. I urge anyone affected by abusive behaviour to report it to the police immediately, and for Londoners to pull together and rally behind this great city now more than ever."

Racist incidents have reportedly risen sharply since the UK's decision to leave the EU 10 days ago, with incidents on public transport especially prevalent. Faith communities have been among the first to respond to the crisis - with many reaching out to local places of worship - especially given that it is currently Ramadan.

Churches of many different shapes and sizes are members of Citizens UK, including Black Majority Churches, Roman Catholics, Anglicans, Methodists, Salvation Army, Independent churches and more.