Prayers for Woolwich attack victim

Christians and other faith leaders have spoken of their horror over the attack on a soldier in Woolwich on Wednesday.

Two suspects are in hospital after being shot at the scene by police. ITV broadcast disturbing footage of a man with bloodied hands brandishing a meat cleaver while talking to the camera. He said he had carried out the attack because British soldiers are killing Muslims. One of suspects has been named as Michael Adebolajo.

The capital's faith leaders came together under the Faiths Forum for London to issue a joint statement deploring the suspected terror attack.

"All of our religions exalt the sanctity of human life and no grievance could justify such a barbaric assault that has cost a young man his life. Terrorism has no place on our streets," they said.

"We pray for the victim of this attack and his family, and call for Londoners to stand together at this time. We will redouble our efforts to work for peace, love, understanding and hope."

Signatories of the letter include Canon Guy Wilkinson, of the Church of England, Dilowar Hussain Khan, of the East London Mosque, Sellappah Yogarajah, of the Hindu Council UK, and Syed Yousif Al Khoei, of the Al Khoei Foundation.

The Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, the Right Reverend Lorna Hood led commissioners this morning in prayers for the victim of the attack, who has yet to be named.

The prayers were especially poignant as there were large numbers of forces chaplains in attendance at the General Assembly to hear an address by the Second Sea Lord Vice Admiral David Steel.

Mrs Hood offered the prayers at the end of a sermon in which she reflected on other recent tragedies like the Oklahoma tornado as she spoke of Christian hope in moments of despair.

"This morning we pray especially for the family of the serving one so violently killed on the streets of Woolwich," she said.

Other Christians have praised the selfless heroism of Ingrid Loyau-Kennett, who The Telegraph reports engaged in a conversation with the attackers to stop them from harming others.

"And then when I went up there was this black guy with a revolver and a kitchen knife, he had what looked like butcher's tools and he had a little axe, to cut the bones, and two large knives and he said 'move off the body'," she was reported as saying.

"So I thought 'OK, I don't know what is going on here' and he was covered with blood. I thought I had better start talking to him before he starts attacking somebody else."

She added: "I said 'right now it is only you versus many people, you are going to lose, what would you like to do?' and he said I would like to stay and fight."

Writing on his personal blog, the Evangelical Alliance's Danny Webster said her response was a "spark of hope" in the darkness of the attack.

"The brutal agony of an attack on London's streets will not be diminished by an eye for an eye. The casting of blame based on stereotypes and lazy solutions will not bring peace to our city," he said.

"But in a woman who looked into the attackers' eyes and spoke to them with dignity is a spark of hope for humanity. A hope for humanity that can be found even in the darkest moments of despair, even in the darkness of depravity.

"And we pray. We pray for peace. We pray that God might have mercy. We pray for the families of the victim, we pray for the attackers and their families too. We pray for neighbours scared to walk down their road. We pray for peace."

In a blog posting, DigitalNun aka Sr Catherine Weybourne praised her "extraordinary bravery", describing what she had done as a "redemptive act".

"Yesterday, I think the women who went to help in Woolwich gave us all a fine example of how courage and compassion can transform an ugly situation and bring love where there is none," she said.

The Bishop of Woolwich, Dr Michael Ipgrave said last night that he was "deeply saddened and distressed" by the attack.

St Mary Magdalene Church, in Woolwich's Greenlaw Street, has opened its doors to offer members of the public a space to pray and reflect.

Christians have been tweeting their reactions to yesterday's attack:

Street Pastors ‏@StreetPastors
Our dearest sympathy goes out for the family of the young man that was murdered yesterday, pls continue to pray for peace. #Woolwich - Les

Wendy Beech-Ward ‏@wendybeechward
There are no words except thinking and praying for his family. RIP.
#Woolwich #helpforheroes

Carl Beech ‏@carlfbeech
Shocked & disturbed by #woolwich Feel we need to pray 4 peace in London and no escalating revenge attacks by opposing extremists

Vicky Beeching ‏@vickybeeching
Extremists within any faith are *not* representative of the majority of adherents. Crucial to remember that as we all process

Patrick Regan OBE ‏@PatrickReganXLP
XLP have been working in #woolwich for over 14 years it's an amazing community that needs our prayers after a traumatic day

Maria Rodrigues-Toth ‏@WomaninLondon
Not every act done in name of faith represents a faith: "@TameenaHussain: As a British Muslim, I'm ashamed, angered & saddened." #woolwich