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Christian's gesture of support for local mosque goes viral

A Christian whose gesture of support for local Manchester Muslims following the attacks on mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, went viral said he simply wanted to “respond with friendship”.

Charity worker and writer Andrew Graystone, who led London 2012’s multi-faith chaplaincy team and is also a regular contributor to Woman Alive, was pictured outside his local mosque in Levenshulme, Manchester, with a placard reading “You are my friends. I will keep watch while you pray.”

He said local Muslims “beamed” when they saw his act. “There are two ways you can respond to an attack like this – you can respond with fear or you can respond with friendship,” he said.

Support outside a mosque in Sunderland

Photos of similar acts at mosques in the Midlands – where Christians from Riverside Church gave flowers to worshippers at a local mosque – and the North-East have also gone viral.

The shootings saw 50 people killed in an attack by a lone gunman on two mosques. Brenton Tarrant, a 28-year-old Australian, has been charged following the attacks.

Mr Graystone said he took the decision to stand outside the Medina Mosque on Friday because he “wanted to make sure that people know we can respond with friendship”.

He added: “As people walked up, you could see in their eyes that they were looking at somebody standing outside their mosque, thinking ‘Oh no, is this some kind of protest or whatever’?

“And then they saw the message saying ‘You are my friend’, their faces broke and they beamed and smiled.”

The impact on social media had taken him by surprise, however: “I hadn’t intended for anybody other than the people at Medina Mosque to know about this. But I guess there are little things that lots of people can do to just express friendship rather than fear with Muslim friends, and neighbours and colleagues – so I just took one little action.”

* Have you or your church taken any steps to support the Muslim community in your community? Do let us know if you have a story to share

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