Strengthening the ties that bind: How MP Jo Cox's murder is bringing millions together this weekend

Not since the Queen's Jubilee has an event bought the UK together as much as the death of Jo Cox.

The Labour MP, shot and stabbed to death in her own constituency of Batley and Spen during the EU referendum campaign, will be remembered this weekend a year on from her death.

The most divisive act, committed when the country was at most at odds with itself, has served only to unite.

Millions of people will come together through more than 110,000 street parties, barbeques and picnics across the UK under the banner of The Great Get Together.

In Batley's own market place a giant table for 200 guests will be laid for a 'Big Iftar' – the Islamic evening meal during the fasting month of Ramadan.

Jo Cox was murdered by the far-right terrorist Thomas Mair, who shouted 'Britain first, this is for Britain' as he killed her. Those marking the anniversary include the UK's Muslim communities and people from a variety of different faiths.

So on Saturday evening it will be local imams that lead the breaking of the fast and say prayers before sharing the meal together.

The range of faith groups who have thrown their weight behind this initiative is quite extraordinary. So far Christian Today has received statements of endorsement from the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Archbishop of York, the Chief Rabbi, the Muslim Council of Britain, the inter-faith network of the UK, Muslim Aid's chief executive, City Sikh's chair, and the chief executive of the British Humanist Association. 

The breadth and range of those involved is impressive.

Brendan Cox, Jo's widower, who is heading up the Jo Cox Foundation that's behind the Great Get Together, says he is 'awed' by the response and it shows 'people are sick of the narrative of hatred and division that neither represents who they are nor our country'.

But the concern with community movements like this is it preaches to the choir – people come who are already persuaded of the importance of inter-faith and community relations. But those who don't – and therefore those who need to be persuaded – don't come.

Justin Welby joins dozens of other faith leaders in backing the Great Get TogetherGreat Get Together

Mark Umpleby, associate priest where Jo Cox was murdered in Batley, said the Church was aware of these challenges.

'It is not just Methodists and the Anglicans [involved],' he told Christian Today. 'We have got the working men's club, we have got the golf club – it is demonstrating that this is for all of us.

'Even if they do not come, people can recognise that it is for everyone one.'

He added: 'The attack was done to try and divide our community and we are doing the opposite by bringing people together.

'In the whole of the community there has been a desire to do all that we can to bring people together.'

Jane Bower, from the Diocese of Leeds, which oversees the Batley area, said the CofE had a crucial role to play because of its place as the established Church.

'The Church of England has a duty of care for everyone who lives in our parishes, not just the people come to church and whatever their faith,' she told Christian Today.

'We think it is very important that people live together not just peacefully but serve one another in a positive way.'

It helps 'people realise they have more in common than what divides them. Diversity is not a bad thing, it is a positive thing,' she said. 

But if the attacks on Manchester and London have shown us anything it is that the UK is just as divided and at war with itself as this time last year during the EU referendum.

As violent attacks come from those claiming to be Islamic, reciprocal attacks from far-right terrorists like Thomas Mair become more likely.

Brendan Cox, the husband of murdered MP Jo Cox, spoke about how The Great Get Together was a fitting tribute to his wife who was 'full of life'.Near Neighbours

In welcoming the Great Get Together the Archbishop of Canterbury said there 'is no better way' to defeat these 'forces of fear, hatred and division' than initiatives like this weekend. 

'It is a wonderful opportunity for all of us to strengthen the ties that bind us all, of all faiths and none – as local communities and as a country – and for churches to practice our values of hospitality, welcome and generosity, which are a gift that the followers of Jesus Christ can model for the benefit of our wider society.'

Perhaps he is right. For all the concern that community meals don't reach the people they most need to, it demonstrates to those on the fringes – those tempted to regress into violence and hatred – that there may be an alternative.

As Harun Khan, MCB Secretary-General, said 'The Great Get Together and other fantastic initiatives clearly showcase how our diverse communities have more in common than what divides us. People coming together, sharing food and having common experiences is a far more effective way to overcome fear and misconceptions, especially in the aftermath of the recent attacks in the UK.' 

For more details about The Great Get Together and the events that are planned click here

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