Last Thursday evening I joined in the prayer walk for Rotherham, culminating in a packed Rotherham Minster. Starting in Clifton park (with another group outside the council buildings), church leaders of all denominations took it in turns to lead us in prayers and preach messages of unity, the rejection of fear and division, and the need to stand together for the vulnerable and abused, while seeking justice for the abusers.

I stood next to a couple who were not churchgoers, but like me they just had to get out on the street, not sit in despair. At different points we held hands in prayer and it did not feel awkward.

A friend on the other side of the crowd got talking to a young Muslim man who was passing. He stayed, and was so impressed by the tone of things that he asked to be informed when such a gathering will happen again.

As we left the Minster early (I came with my 3-year ok daughter and needed to get her to bed), a man was stood outside quietly in the dark, waiting for his wife. He said he was a churchgoer but didn’t want to go inside. He said his views might be harsher than what was being preached. He said he was born in war time, but despaired at the state of our nation and the world now; and the immigration policies and misguided multiculturalism that have played a part in things.

I think there are many decent fair-minded people who feel the same. But I feel the tide is turning somehow – that the emptiness of political correctness has been laid bare, and people are desperate for a return to moral clarity, no longer willing to be cowed by the false accusation of racism when trying to speak out about simple matters of right and wrong.

I left the gathering with a renewed hope that, freed from those shackles, we as a nation still have enough goodness in us to move forward not into division, but into courageous peacemaking and loving engagement in our mixed communities. The next step is for us to have another similar gathering in Rotherham, with leaders of ALL faiths standing together.

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