'Fight against the hatred that killed her': Prayer vigils held as UK mourns MP Jo Cox

Vigils have been held in churches across the UK after Jo Cox MP was killed on Thursday in her constituency.

The 41-year-old mother of two was fatally shot and stabbed outside the library in her hometown of Birstall, West Yorkshire, where she was due to hold an MP's surgery session. Tributes from fellow MPs and other politicians around the world flooded in as news of the attack spread.

Jo Cox MP was a former head of policy at the charity OxfamReuters

The pews of St Peter's Church, Birstall, were packed full as hundreds gathered for a prayer vigil on Thursday night. Guests included Labour MPs Yvette Cooper and Dan Jarvis.

The Bishop of Huddersfield, the Rt Rev Dr Jonathon Gibbs told those gathered of Cox: "She grew up in this community, she lived for this community, she served this community and, in the end, she gave her life for this community."

An impromptu vigil was also held in Parliament Square, Westminster, and was attended by several MPs.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn paid tribute to a "much-loved colleague" and said the whole country would be in shock.

"[She] died doing her public duty at the heart of our democracy, listening to and representing the people she was elected to serve," he said.

Prime Minister David Cameron cancelled a referendum visit to Gibraltar after hearing the news.

"This is absolutely tragic and dreadful news," he said. "We've lost a great star. She was a great campaigning MP with huge compassion and a big heart. People are going to be very, very sad at what has happened. My thoughts are with her husband, Brendan, and her two young children."

Yvette Cooper hugs a priest as she leaves a prayer vigil in a church in Birstall, West YorkshireReuters

Both sides have suspended their referendum campaign in light of the attack. 

West Yorksire Police have arrested a 52-year-old man, named locally as Tommy Mair. The force has refused to discuss the motives for the killing but one eye-witness told BBC News he heard the attacker shout "Britain first" or "put Britain first".

Local café owner Clarke Rothwell told the BBC: "I can't say which exactly it was, but definitely 'Britain first' was what he said when he was shouting – he shouted it at least twice."

The far-right political party Britain First has issued a video statement to condemn the attack and said it had no connection with the incident.

Cox's mourning husband called for a fight against "the hatred that killed her".

In a statement Brendan Cox, a former deputy director at Save the Children and adviser to Gordon Brown, said: "She would have wanted two things above all else to happen now. One, that our precious children are bathed in love, and two, that we all unite to fight against the hatred that killed her. Hate doesn't have a creed, race or religion – it is poisonous.

"Jo believed in a better world and she fought for it every day of her life with an energy and a zest for life that would exhaust most people.

"Jo would have no regrets about her life. She lived every day of it to the full."

Tributes to the Labour MP were laid outside the church in Birstall where one of dozens of prayer vigils were heldReuters

The attack was the worst on a sitting British politician since a string of deaths at the hands of Northern Irish terror groups more than 20 years ago.

The Archbishop of Canterbury was among dozens to offer their prayers and condolences as the UK reeled in shock at the attack.

Andy Flannagan, chair of Christians on the Left, told Christian Today he was "shocked and stunned" by her death.

"On behalf of Christians on the Left we are truly sad and will be praying for her family."

Flannagan went on to say it was "especially cruel that a public servant had died in the midst of doing the thing that nobody thanks them for doing – the invisible service in their constituency that people don't appreciate happens".

Christians on the Left alongside the Conservative Christian Fellowship and the Lib Dem Christian Forum will join a prayer vigil on Friday at 7pm. A statement from the group said: "We felt it particularly important to stand with our Christian brothers and sisters from across the parties to pray for Jo's family and the nation.

"Christians on the Left, the Conservative Christian Fellowship and the Liberal Democrat Christian forum will be standing together in prayer as Christians in Politics."

MPs from all political parties also rushed to offer their prayers and condolences.