Oxfordshire civic and faith leaders stand together to call for peace ahead of weekend vigil

Oxfordshire’s civic and faith leaders are standing together to call for peace ahead of a vigil in Oxford this weekend.

The leaders of Oxfordshire County Council, Oxford City Council and Cherwell, South Oxfordshire, Vale of the White Horse and West Oxfordshire district councils have joined Oxfordshire’s faith leaders in calling for peace and a commitment to friendship, respect and understanding across our diverse communities.

A vigil in Oxford on Sunday (5 November) will see short reflections from faith leaders and then a shared silence.

Oxfordshire vigil for peace

A community vigil for peace will be held in Broad Street this Sunday (5 November) at 5pm. Attendees are invited to bring a candle.

There will be short reflections, a sharing of grief, and words of comfort from religious representatives for all those affected and concerned by the conflict in Israel and Gaza.

At 5.15pm, following reflections, there will be a period of silence. Attendees will be invited to light their candle for this as an act of solidarity with those who suffer on all sides of conflict.

The vigil is open to all, irrespective of faith or background, who wish to come together peacefully and respectfully.

Faith and community leaders’ group

On Tuesday, The Bishop of Oxford, The Rt Revd Dr Steven Croft, and Imam Monawar Hussain hosted a meeting for faith and community leaders from Oxfordshire to discuss the conflict in Gaza and Israel and the impact it is having on our communities, here.

Communities across Oxfordshire are horrified by the violence and loss of innocent life being seen in Israel and Palestine, and the increase in violence and hatred closer to home.

It is an important time for Oxfordshire's diverse communities to be able to come together peacefully to renew bonds of friendship and a common commitment to peace.

The faith and community group will meet regularly in the coming months to give a collective voice in promoting understanding, peace, and strong community relations across the area.

You can find more information about the group and Sunday’s vigil on the Diocese of Oxford’s webpage

Councillor Liz Leffman, Leader of Oxfordshire County Council, said: “We share the grief and the fear of the many Oxfordshire residents with family and friends in Israel and Gaza. We stand in solidarity with all our communities across the county and call for the violence to end and for international law to be respected. We also condemn in the strongest terms the anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim attacks that have taken place here in the UK, including in Oxfordshire. These are profoundly wrong - there is no place for racism or intolerance in our county. Now, more than ever, we must stand together, united in mutual respect and understanding.” 

Councillor Susan Brown, Leader of Oxford City Council, said: “In Oxford we are rightly proud of our welcoming, diverse and compassionate city. The terrible loss of life in Israel and Gaza has shocked and appalled us all. Many people in our local communities are grieving for loved ones or are worried about friends and relations. But very sadly many people locally are also experiencing fear in our city as a result of international events. Sunday’s vigil is a time for people from all communities to come together in peace and solidarity, irrespective of their faith or background. By working together, we ensure that hate and prejudice have no place in our city of Oxford and that people of all faiths and none, and of every background, feel safe and at home.”

Councillor Andy Graham, Leader of West Oxfordshire District Council, said, “We understand this will be a challenging time for people across our communities and we would always advocate for peace and understanding across the district.” 

Councillor David Rouane, Leader of South Oxfordshire District Council, said: “We are heartbroken by the events that have unfolded in the Middle East, and grieve for all the innocent lives lost. We are standing unified in support and friendship with those impacted by the events in Israel and Palestine, including those in our own communities with loved ones in the region. We want to call on members of our community for sensitivity and compassion at this time. If you have been affected, know that your communities are here to support you.” 

Councillor Bethia Thomas, Leader of the Vale of White Horse District Council, said: “I’m proud to join people of all faiths and backgrounds across Oxfordshire to show support for the thousands of innocent people caught up in the events in Israel and Palestine. As a community, we will all come together now to provide support for those around us whose lives have been affected by these shocking events.” 

Councillor Barry Wood, Leader of Cherwell District Council, said: "I wholeheartedly agree that violence and hatred can never be the solution. It's crucial that we come together in Cherwell and across Oxfordshire to promote peace, understanding and mutual respect for everyone in our communities.” 

Imam Monawar Hussain, Founder, The Oxford Foundation, said: “War and conflict perpetuate the vicious cycle of violence, killing and revenge. The only way to break this cycle is to pursue the path of peace, reconciliation and healing. Please join all Oxfordshire’s communities for this vigil for peace.” 

Martin Goodman, President, Oxford Jewish Congregation, said: “We join this call for all in our county to come together to assert, in the face of the terrible events in Israel and Palestine, our shared determination to preserve the strong friendship between our communities in Oxfordshire which has been built up over so many years.” 

The Bishop of Oxford, The Rt Revd Dr Steven Croft, said: “It’s vital in this moment of crisis for communities to come together across Oxfordshire in solidarity with those who are suffering and to reach out to one another. We must not let conflict in distant lands however heartbreaking divide us here.” 

Layla Moran, Member of Parliament for Oxford West and Abingdon, said: “The ongoing events in Israel and Palestine have profoundly affected communities all over the world - Jewish, Muslim, Christian, Israeli, and Palestinian. It is deeply saddening that what unites us all as a community are those profound feelings of sorrow and loss. This is a time to show solidarity and remember those who have been lost on all sides of this terrible conflict. It is vital that we have an opportunity to come together as a whole community, stand shoulder to shoulder in support, and call for peace.” 

Anneliese Dodds, Member of Parliament for Oxford East, said: “Now more than ever it’s important that in our city of Oxford we stand together to support each other. This vigil will bring together people of all faiths and none to be clear that our thoughts are with everyone affected by the events unfolding in Israel and in Gaza; and that we stand against all forms of hate, whether that be Antisemitism, Islamophobia or other forms of prejudice” 

Local Policing Area Commander for Oxford, Superintendent Bruce Riddell from Thames Valley Police, said: “Sadly, we have seen a rise in hate crime being reported to us. I want to reiterate to our communities that there is no place for hate crime in Oxford. All offences reported to us will be investigated and the appropriate action taken. If you see or hear a hate crime please call 999 if it’s urgent or alternatively, please call us on 101 if it’s non-urgent. You can also report to us online via the Thames Valley Police website.”

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