Harrogate marks anniversary of Paris attacks with touching vigil

Harrogate vigil

Harrogate vigil

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Harrogate marked the French terrorist attacks that killed 130 people on November 13 with a touching candlelight vigil on Friday evening.

Residents young and old met at the Cenotaph at 8pm with tea lights, jars and 'Peace for Paris' signs to mark one week since the attacks.

Harrogate vigil

Harrogate vigil

Islamic State (IS) gunmen have claimed responsibility for the attacks which killed 130 people, including 89 people at the Bataclan theatre, and injuring hundreds more.

Local Chair of Churches Together, Reverend Guy Donegan-Cross, who helped organise the event, said the vigil was the perfect opportunity to present a united community in the face of despair.

He said: "It was great to have a cross section of people at the vigil. There was a really good atmosphere and it did what it needed to do, which was bringing people together.

"A great moment was at 8.20pm when we did a big cheer because at the same time in Paris they all went on to the streets to make a noise so we were able to join in with that.

Harrogate vigil (s)

Harrogate vigil (s)

"That was the balance we were going for. You can either turn to despair or you can say we can overcome this by affirming hope, looking to the future and focusing on goodness.

"That was the spirit of the vigil. It was about people choosing to say 'this hatred is not going to win.'"

The letter of Antoine Leiris, whose wife was killed in the Bataclan, to terrorists was also read aloud during the Harrogate vigil.

In it, he explained that he would not give the gunmen the 'satisfaction of hating you' and that he and the couple's baby son would never live in fear of terrorists.

Harrogate vigil

Harrogate vigil

Rev Donegan-Cross said this letter was read aloud to demonstrate the futility of responding with hatred and to encourage people to continue their displays of compassion, especially to refugees.

He said: "To me, there have been two things people have focused on. One is about how we respond to refugees but alongside that there is this anxiety and fear over terrorism.

"What we have got to make sure is that the compassion for refugees is not destroyed by this fear of terrorism.

"At the moment in some places people are saying they are not sure if they want to have refugees but to my mind that would be a massive mistake.

"It would be giving a victory to these people who want to spread hate. We want to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem."

"During the vigil, the Mayor read out a quote from Gandhi. 'Be the change you want to see in the world'.

"It's a really strong quote and this was the spirit of the vigil. It encourages us to have the courage to stand up for what we believe in."