"The family have said they forgive the person who did this to their son - we hope lessons can be learned"

Teenagers gather at Irfan's vigil in Harehills
Teenagers gather at Irfan's vigil in Harehills
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Hundreds of teenagers gathered in Harehills to pay tribute to murdered schoolboy Irfan Wahid today.

Teachers, youth workers, religious leaders and politicians also joined a vigil close to the spot on Harehills Lane where the 16-year-old, known as Iffy, was stabbed after finishing school last Friday.

The message from imams speaking at the gathering was that hope and unity would triumph over hate - and that the tragedy would mark a turning point for the area's youth.

Irfan's former headteacher Janet Spence, who remembered him from his time at Hovingham Primary School, described a popular boy who was a gifted pupil.

"He was well-respected, a lovely boy and popular, and he was making good progress with reading, writing and maths. We all had high hopes that he would go on to high school and be a success. He was a 'can do' pupil - he had a really positive attitude."

Harehills parish vicar the Reverend Amos Kasibante emphasised the vigil's focus on bringing people of all faiths and backgrounds together.

"We're here to express our sympathy with the family, but the community is also coming together in solidarity against violence. The message is to avoid gangs, avoid knives, and talk the language of love and reconciliation. We want to galvanise the young people against this and mobilise them - it could be the beginning. We want workshops, gatherings and unity among faiths.

"I am an Anglican vicar and we have a Methodist minister here too alongside the imams, and we want to use our influence to help. There have been some nasty incidents recently and we hope that this is the end of them."

Ward councillors Araf Hussain and Mohammed Rafique paid tribute to the courage of Irfan's family during a difficult time.

"They are a very well-respected family - generations of them have lived in this area for about 40 years. This is such a hard time for them, their boy has lost his life and they saw him off for school that morning hoping he would come home. As a father and a Muslim, I can understand what a difficult time this is," said Cllr Hussain.

"This is a very positive response - there has been no aggression, and the message from the family has been positive. We hope that the youngsters look to the future, and make the future and the area better," he added.

"We hope people will wake up and see that this incident isn't repeated. The area has a young population - most are aged under 25 - and the council, police and youth services will carry on working together to ensure there is no hatred spread," said Cllr Rafique.

East Leeds MP Richard Burgon attended the vigil and felt the response reflected positively on Harehills.

"There was a huge turnout at the mosque for his funeral, People have supported each other in the darkest of times and proven themselves to be a community that supports each other.

"The family have said that they forgive the person who took their son's life - and we hope that lessons can be learned from this."