Page last updated at 16:21 GMT, Thursday, 21 January 2010

All-faith stand against EDL march in Stoke-on-Trent

Failth leaders with their pledge opposing a planned EDL march
Failth leaders with their pledge opposing a planned EDL march

Christian, Muslim, Jewish and Sikh faith leaders have signed a pledge opposing a planned rally by The English Defence League (EDL) in Stoke-on-Trent.

The faith leaders lit a candle and signed a pledge of unity against all racism outside Stoke Minster Church.

Staffordshire Police said hundreds of officers would be in Hanley at the weekend to ensure safety during the planned gathering.

The EDL said the rally is against extremism and the group is not racist.

'Against persecution'

The Right Reverend Gordon Mursell, The Church of England Bishop of Stafford, said: "If Stoke-on-Trent is to have a good future, it is absolutely vital that all its citizens, irrespective of creed and background, work together for the common good.

"We believe that real diversity actually helps create a vibrant and attractive city. The EDL and BNP think the opposite. That is why we oppose them."

The Right Reverend David McGough, the Roman Catholic Auxiliary Bishop for North Staffordshire, added: "We must all oppose any extremism that would play on peoples' fears and anxieties to divide our city and set one section of our community against another."

Gurmeet Singh Kallar, of the Sikh Gurdwarar, said: "As Sikhs we believe that all people are important to God and we are against the persecution of any group or minority."

'United cause'

A spokesman for the EDL said people of different backgrounds would be joining in the demonstration and speaking at a rally.

"We are a non-racist group," he said.

"We are a community of all different people with a united cause."

The cause was extremism being preached in communities and universities, he added.

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