BLACKBURN Cathedral and Lancashire Council of Mosques have issued a joint statement condemning the kidnapping of more than 200 Nigerian schoolgirls by Islamist militants.

As international pressure grows on their captors, it is believed to be the first time Christians and Muslims have officially come together to vilify Boko Haram, who have threatened to sell the young women.

The document, signed by Cathedral Canon Shannon Ledbetter and LCM chairman Abdul Hamid Qureshi, has been endorsed by Blackburn MP Jack Straw and his Burnley counterpart Gordon Birtwistle.

The statement says: “The kidnapping of school girls is very upsetting and distressing for Muslims and Christians in Lancashire. This act cannot be an act of people of faith.

“Lancashire Council of Mosques and Blackburn Cathedral have together been at the forefront of developing understanding among communities and are united in condemnation of the kidnapping.

“This position is also supported by the entire Diocese of Blackburn .

“Both Islam and Christianity are believers in a God of compassion, justice and mercy. To behave otherwise is to dishonour what is true.”

The move follows the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and American President Barack Obama condemning the groups’ actions.

The militants have released a video of around 130 girls seized from a school in the northern Borno state on 14 April, saying they could be swapped for jailed fighters. The Boko Haram video showed 136 girls wearing hijabs, claiming they had ‘converted’ to Islam from Christianity.

Mr Straw said: “This joint statement is very welcome. This kidnapping is just repugnant and criminal.”

Mr Birtwistle said: “I am pleased our local communities have come together to condemn this awful act.”