Today (Tuesday 23rd May) I led prayers at a vigil in Peterborough city centre for those affected by the bomb attack in Manchester yesterday (Monday 22nd May). No one I have spoken to today has not been affected and deeply moved. The attack targeted fans of an American pop singer, Ariana Grande, and the youngest victim was only 8 years old.
This atrocity displayed the worst of humanity, where evil intent poisons the heart to breed hated and set in train the violent destruction of both self and others chosen at random. Lives have been irrevocably changed, and ended, and Colin Parry, whose son was killed by an IRA bomb in Warrington in 1995, wrote today in the London Evening Standard about the affects this will have on the families. It is a dark act of deep-seated evil that sends shock waves through so many with such lasting consequences. This does not negate the complex delusions and indoctrination that lie behind it, but evil is an act which intends the worst without caring.
Last night we also saw the best of humanity on display and this is the overwhelming response to the hatred. Strangers went to the aid of those in distress, hospitality was given to those in need of it, taxi drivers took people to safety at no charge. There were queues to give blood. Arms of loving embrace were wrapped around victims and the grieving, hands extended across communities refusing to be divided. The human spirit is not evil, but filled with love and compassion, and this gives us signs of hope.
Today we stood united in defiance of hatred, shining a light of hope, love and peace, refusing the give way to the forces that want to drive us apart. It was an honour to share the platform with politicians and leaders of other faiths, including Muslims equally outraged by the atrocity.
My day began presiding at the Eucharist in the Cathedral. At the east end there is a candle stand prayer station for Victims of Violence, which we set up after a serious exploitation case from the city went to trial a few years ago. It seemed appropriate to light a candle there before hand as a symbol of the hope and confidence in Christ’s redeeming love for those whose lives have been changed by this atrocity and those who went to their aid.
Love is stronger than hate. Terrorism tries to advance a lie because it is essentially the proclamation of death and that can achieve only its own destruction. In Christ we proclaim life in all its fulness. Today we have seen just how deeply rooted this is in the human spirit, shared by friends of others faiths and none and that is a sign of just how true it is.
Spirit of God, unite us in honouring the gift we are to each other.
Spirit of God, breathe into the whole of your creation the peace that comes from you alone.