By Sandra Coulson
Citing their determination to stand up and be counted, 40 Anglicans from the Diocese of Huron joined a counter-rally in London on Aug. 26 against a group opposed to Islam.
The collective Anglican response was organized within a day’s notice as word spread of the counter-demonstration. The original rally, by a group called Pegida, claimed its purpose was to oppose “the Islamization of the West.”
Coming not long after a counter-demonstrator died in Charlottesville, Va., the effort was not without risk. The Huron contingent, led by Bishop Linda Nicholls, met in the parking lot at Huron Church House, centred themselves in prayer, and then walked the two blocks to city hall.
When about 20 members of Pegida turned up at the steps of London city hall at noon, they were met by about 400 who had been there since 10:30 a.m. to oppose them. Churches were well represented in the counter-rally.
Signs carried by those in the counter-rally ranged from quotations from the Bible and Christian leaders, to wit and whimsy, to harsh words for the Pegida group. The last were of some concern to Bishop Linda, who said she feared it would cut off opportunity for dialogue to change minds.
While most of the counter-protesters sang 1960s protest songs and listened to speeches, a smaller group got in close to the Pegida group to drown out their speeches with drumming and chants and block their signs with other signs. London police watched over the two sides, making two arrests.
After about 90 minutes, the counter-protest drummers led a large contingent, including most of the Huron group, away from city hall for a march around nearby Victoria Park. Meanwhile, most of the Pegida group left.
Huron Church News asked, “Why did you come to the anti-Pegida rally?”
As a lifelong Londoner, I am standing up for my community and for people whose lives were sacrificed during World War II.
Elena Haist, Transfiguration, London
Because this is about standing for the gospel vision of love God and love your neighbour.
Bishop Linda Nicholls
I’m here to show we’re all children of God and need to support each other. That’s how we’ll find peace.
Ven. Sam Thomas, St. Michael and All Angels, London
That’s why (pointing to another demonstrator’s sign that read, “My London is welcoming and inclusive”). Besides which, how could I face my Muslim grandson if I didn’t?
Russ Braley, Ascension, London