Manchester

Alan Henning memorial service held in Manchester

The face of Alan Henning shown on a big screen at the British Muslim Heritage Centre in Manchester Image copyright PA
Image caption The face of Alan Henning was shown on a big screen as the service got under way

Hundreds of people have attended a memorial service in Manchester for murdered British hostage Alan Henning.

The 47-year-old was beheaded by Islamic State (IS) militants after he was captured in December while delivering food and supplies to Syrian refugees.

His widow Barbara and children Adam and Lucy were at the service at the British Muslim Heritage Centre.

Opening the ceremony, Dr Usman Choudry described Mr Henning as a "local hero, a national hero" and "a world hero".

He added: "A hero who left the comfort of his own home for no other reason than to help the destitute and needy refugees of Syria.

'Extraordinary individual'

"A hero who put the needs of others before his own - and that hero is Alan Henning."

He said the service, organised by friends and humanitarian aid colleagues of Mr Henning and entitled His Life and Legacy Remembered, also served to support "those willing to stand up for the rights of humanity and the poor and the repressed, and [who] are prepared to work and not just talk about what they believe in".

A video tribute was played featuring several Syrian children who Mr Henning had helped, saying how much they missed "Uncle Gadget" - a reference to Mr Henning's nickname.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Mr Henning's widow Barbara and their children Adam and Lucy sat in the front row
Image copyright PA
Image caption Organisers want to raise £50,000 to continue Mr Henning's work in Syria

Mr Henning's friend Dr Shameela Zulfiqar, who had travelled to Syria with him, told the service: "All week as the tributes poured in, the words remarkable, selfless, compassionate and hero have become synonymous with Alan's name. And people all over the world have been touched by this man with a heart of gold.

"Alan Henning did what most of us just think about. He sacrificed his time, his energy, his home comforts, to help people who are suffering and he paid the ultimate price for this.

"We are here to recognise those sacrifices; to celebrate and pay tribute to the life of this remarkable man whose vision for humanity looked beyond all of our differences."

Faith leaders also spoke at the service.

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Media captionAlan Henning's friend Dr Shameela Islam-Zulfiqar described him as a "larger than life" man with a "golden heart"

Organisers had earlier written on Facebook that the ceremony was "for people of all faiths and none to stand together, unite and continue the work".

More than £30,000 has been raised for Mr Henning's family so far through online appeals set up after his death.

Organisers hope to raise £50,000 to help the children he was "so motivated to help in Syria", said Dr Zulfiqar.

Last Sunday, Mrs Henning and her children attended a service of "reflection and solidarity" at Eccles Parish Church, in Salford.

Mr Henning, a taxi driver from Salford, was on an aid convoy when he was kidnapped in Syria in December 2013.

A video purporting show his beheading was released last week.

Last month MPs voted to authorise RAF air strikes against IS in Iraq, at the invitation of the Iraqi government.

The UK is among more than 40 nations that have joined forces to challenge the extremist group.

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