Service of Solidarity at Giffnock Synagogue: First Minister's speech

First Minister Humza Yousaf’s speech at Giffnock Synagogue, Thursday 12 October 2023.

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Friends, I stand here today not just as First Minister, but first and foremost as a fellow human being.

A father, a son, a son-in-law, a husband.

It is with deep sorrow that I join you this evening.

I want you to know, that this First Minister, who is proudly Muslim, shares the pain of our Jewish communities.

Your heartbreak is my heartbreak.

Your loss is my loss.

Your tears are my tears.

No-one should ever be harmed because of their faith.

No child should ever be murdered for their citizenship, or any other reason.

Nothing can ever justify such acts of brutality as we saw on Saturday morning.

They must be condemned in the strongest possible way. 

We all know there are those who say violence is inevitable and an eternal constant in the human condition.

They are wrong.

The human capacity to love is far greater.

That is, undeniably, the first lesson of our holy books.

“Love your neighbour as yourself” of [Leviticus 19:18] is echoed in all our scriptures.

It says in the Quran, my Holy Book, that if someone kills one innocent person, it is as if he killed the whole of humanity.

No religion on earth condones the killing of innocent men, women or children.

To those who wish to return us to the darkest ages of religious hatred – I say, you will not prevail.

So I stand here tonight to mourn with you all the innocent lives wasted in violence.

I pray in solidarity with you all that the guilty are punished and the innocent protected.

I know you fear greatly for your loved ones who continue to be missing, or that have been harmed after Saturday’s terror attack. 

I know that you fear also for the future stability of the region, as I do.

So I want to assure you that I will do everything I can to ensure peace prevails.

I will continue to call for a peaceful solution to this conflict.

I will continue to call for compassion.

And I will continue to be clear that hate crimes, or antisemitism of any kind, will never be tolerated here in Scotland.

Scotland has one of the strongest interfaith traditions in the world.

Many of you know I was brought up in this community, with Jewish neighbours most of my life.

We shared culture, traditions and even food – I still miss receiving my batch of Sufganiyot during Hannukah.

When I became First Minister, I promised to be First Minister for all of Scotland.

At a time of great sorrow and sadness I want you to be in no doubt whatsoever that your government stands with you.

Let us rededicate ourselves at this moment to peace, to not forgetting that compassion and empathy is what makes us human.

Where there is unity and justice, religious violence is not an inevitable human trait.

We have proven that here in Scotland for decades.

We have pioneered what it means to live in solidarity.

Solidarity goes far beyond tolerance - it embraces love.

Your convening of us today is a small sign of that solidarity.

Let us all hope and pray for a swift resolution to this conflict, for justice and an end to terrorism, and for a peaceful future for all.

When I pray tonight I will not only be praying for my in-laws, but praying for Bernard Cowan, and for all those innocent men, women and children who have been killed or harmed - be they Israeli or Palestinian.

May God have mercy on all of them. 

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