Archbishop of Canterbury joins faith leaders backing Westminster Shoah memorial

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Archbishop of Canterbury joins faith leaders backing Westminster Shoah memorial

Anglican leader writes to Westminster Council alongside Catholic, Jewish and Muslim leaders, supporting the proposal

Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis joins Archbishop Welby at Israel's Holocaust memorial, Yad Vashem
Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis joins Archbishop Welby at Israel's Holocaust memorial, Yad Vashem

The Archbishop of Canterbury and a host of other faith leaders have written to Westminster Council to back proposals for a national Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre next to Parliament.

Justin Welby, the head of the Anglican church, wrote to the Council, as did the UK’s most senior Catholic, Jewish and Muslim figures, including Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis and Senior Imam Qari Muhammad Asim, chair of the Mosques and Imams National Advisory Board.

Welby said: “Memory comes from experience and education. Experience is deepened by symbolism. The symbolism of this centre, right next to the home of our democracy, is profound and hugely powerful.”

He added: “I believe it will add significantly to the status of the City of Westminster as a place of government that is a world model. I do hope that these factors will be taken into account.”

The faith leaders’ intervention follows earlier high-level support from the Government, including new Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick MP.

He said: “It is right that this country’s faith leaders have united behind our plans to build a Holocaust Memorial and Education Centre in the shadow of Parliament.”

He added that the project was “a priority for the Government and our Prime Minister [Boris Johnson], and said he was “determined to see it delivered”.

In a letter to Westminster Council, Cardinal Nichols, Chief Rabbi Mirvis and Imam Qari Asim, backed the proposal saying they are “deeply saddened by the rise of outspoken intolerance, racism and hate crimes”.

Saying the memorial proposal “sends a strong and unequivocal message to all people that Britain must be a  country committed to supporting tolerance”, they urge Westminster Council to support it, saying there is a “profound message” in the choice of location, in the shadow of Parliament.

They added, it can “help remind each of us… of the dangers of allowing hatred to grow unchecked and the need to vigorously oppose it”.

Plans for the memorial’s location were first mooted during David Cameron’s premiership, and it has support from a string of former prime ministers and the Opposition, but the final say lies with Westminster Council.

Revised plans for the memorial and learning centre were submitted to the council earlier this year following opposition from local residents and Royal Parks, which manages the much-loved Grade-II listed green space alongside the River Thames. It pointed to environmental concerns and a “significant harmful impact,” not least to the roots of the ancient trees lining the space. A decision on the application is expected next month.

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