Church’s Good Friday march stopped by Brent Council

A church leader has accused the council of religious intolerance

A church leader has accused the council of religious intolerance after it stopped Christians from marching just 400 metres for their annual Good Friday procession.

For more than a decade, churches in Willesden have come together to hold the peaceful parade to commemorate the crucifixion of Jesus Christ – one of the holiest days in Christian theology.

But Brent Council has put a block on the plans because it claims it was contacted too late to approve a traffic order to close the roads.

Rev Hugh MacKenzie, of St. Mary Magdalen RC Church, of Peter Avenue, Willesden, which planned to take part in the parade, said: “It is a long standing tradition in the area. It is a chance for us to get together and do something public.

“This is very important in the Christian faith – the idea of procession and journey. It is an expression of our faith, our worship of God and our hopes for greater unity among the wider community.

“One does wonder if it was a homosexual rights or Islamic group, if the council would have discovered more flexibility as it doesn’t seem like rocket science to permit us to walk 400 metres.”

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Rev MacKenzie went on: “The idea of tolerating the major religions, particularly the Christian religion which has been at the heart of our civilisation, and our right to express ourselves in this moderate way is a very basic aspect of religious freedom.”

The four churches involved – New Testament Church of God, St. Andrew’s Church of England, St. Mary Magdalen and Willesden Green Baptist Church – had planned to march along the roads from Park Avenue to St. Andrew’s Church in St. Andrew’s Road, Willesden.

In previous years they only needed police approval to stage the march, who they contacted two months ago. However, following a legal change, they also need the council’s permission.

Sarah Teather, Lib Dem Brent Central MP, has written to the council urging them to reconsider. She said: “It is important that the Good Friday procession is allowed to take place on the roads.”

A Brent police spokeswoman confirmed they had been contacted by organisers to steward the march, but said the force are unable to police private events.

A Brent Council spokesman said: “There is a strict legal procedure we have to follow to issue a traffic order closing roads so people can march in the highway, and this takes about five weeks.

“We are very sorry to say there is now not enough time for us to legally facilitate this march. We have been in touch with organisers and said that if they contact us next year with enough notice, we will be pleased to help them.”