Until 22nd May, Woolwich in south-east London was perhaps best known for the Thames ferry and as the original home of Arsenal Football Club, the team’s name reflecting the long military traditions of the area. Since that Wednesday though, most now associate the area with the brutal killing of a young soldier, writes Jo Tanner.
The people of Woolwich, those of all faiths and none, refuse to be defined by this vicious act. Their Woolwich is a place of community, where people of all backgrounds live together, side by side. And it is that Woolwich which gathered on Friday 31st May at the Greenwich Islamic Centre.
People of the local community joined worshippers after Friday prayers, sharing tea and biscuits and very British conversations about the rare sight of sunshine and blue sky. Leaders of other faith groups – Anglican, Roman Catholic, Jewish, Sikh – from in and around Woolwich came together to show their unity with the imam and to offer their support.
With local MP Nick Raynsford, Shadow London Minister Sadiq Khan and East Ham MP Stephen Timms, they talked about the impact on the local community and the need to work even more closely to ensure that this one terrible act does not succeed in its aim of division and hate.
Then, quietly and solemnly, the faith leaders visited the barracks at Woolwich outside which drummer Lee Rigby was slain. Together they prayed for him and for the Woolwich community and, silently, laid a wreath in his memory. Its message was simple and captured the essence of the day: peace.
The eyes of the world have been watching this corner of London since that dreadful day in May. Last Friday they saw the true Woolwich: a community shaken but not broken and determined to be stronger.
Jo Tanner is director of communications at British Future.
View images from the event below: