LONDON — Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster has offered prayers for the victims of a terror attack in north London that targeted worshippers outside a mosque in the early hours of Monday.
One person was killed and nine have been hospitalized, after a van drove into a group outside the Finsbury Park Mosque shortly before 12:20am June 19.
The Muslim worshippers were helping an elderly man who had fallen down in the street.
“Together with people all over this country, I am appalled at the deliberate attack on people leaving their late-night prayers, as the end of their day of fasting, at the mosque in Finsbury Park,” Cardinal Nichols stated.
“Violence breeds violence. Hatred breeds hatred. Every one of us must repudiate hatred and violence from our words and actions. We must all be builders of understanding, compassion and peace, day by day, in our homes, our work and our communities. That is the only way.”
The cardinal also wrote to Mohammad Kozbar, trustee of the Finsbury Park Mosque, saying, “I am horrified that people should, again, be targeted in this way. I write to assure you of my prayers for the person who has died, for those who have been injured and for all deeply affected by this brutal attack. I know that I speak for all Catholics when I assure you of prayers and support.”
In a similar message to Ahmed Kheloufi, director of Muslim Welfare House, Cardinal Nichols wrote “to assure you of my prayers and of my deep compassion for all who have been injured and affected by this deliberate act of violence. In particular I pray for the person who has been killed. May God’s blessings strengthened you all.”
“I also want to thank you for the work you do to foster good relations in the Finsbury Park community,” the cardinal added. “I pray that your work will be strengthened at this most difficult time.”
The attack came after the group had taken part in evening prayers after breaking their Ramadan fast.
The van’s driver, a 48-year-old man, was restrained at the scene of the attack, and the mosque’s imam kept him from being attacked. He has been arrested on suspicion of attempted murder.
Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, commented, “While this appears to be an attack on a particular community, like the terrible attacks in Manchester, Westminster and London Bridge, it is also an assault on all our shared values of tolerance, freedom and respect.”
Prime Minister Theresa May said that “there has been far too much tolerance of extremism over many years. It is a reminder that terrorism, extremism and hatred take many forms; and our determination to tackle them must be the same whoever is responsible.”
The Finsbury Park Mosque had been associated with Islamist terrorism in the early 2000s. Abu Hamza al-Masri, its imam from 1997 to 2002, was found guilty in the U.K. of inciting violence. He was later extradited to the US, where he was found guilty of terror charges.
The mosque was shut down in 2003 after a police raid, but was reopened in 2005 under new trustees and new imams, which have reportedly turned it around.
In his message to Kozbar, Cardinal Nichols said, “Father John O’Leary has told me of all the good work you do to foster strong and good relations with all people in Finsbury Park. Long may this good work continue, and may your resolve be strengthened at this difficult time.”