Yesterday was in many ways a surreal day. We had been invited to a garden party at Buckingham Palace and yet we awoke to hear the awful news of the brutality that took place in Manchester the night before. It was a day of strange feelings, mixed feelings. At the palace, before the playing of the National Anthem, a period of silence was observed. It was unannounced and yet everyone knew why it was being held. I enjoyed the tea but I couldn’t stop thinking of Manchester.
On the way home I read the Evening Standard. I also looked at the Church of England website. I want to offer you just a few thoughts that others have written; I will offer my own thoughts on Sunday. In the Evening Standard Matthew D’Ancona wrote:
‘So as we wait the fill facts lets us begin by declaring what this attack is not…….it is not part of a war between the West and Islam, between one civilization and another. The opposing forces in this conflict are sanity and extremism, pluralism and fundamentalism. The teenagers who went to see Ariana Grande last night represent the world as it should be: multi-ethnic, diverse, united in shared enthusiasms.. Whoever was responsible for the heinous crime that hurt so many represents the precise opposite…...the best possible response is to live well together, as did New Yorkers after 9/11, and Londoners after the 2005 attacks.’
To live well together is something that all men and women of faith need to practice. The prophet Jeremiah as we have heard (Jeremiah 29, 4-8) is adamant about this.
A retired Bishop of Manchester suggested yesterday that the response from the people of Manchester is what will be remembered. He described it as the ‘thunder’ of love, charity and, hospitality. He is hopefully correct. Manchester’s response was amazing. Despite the act of a very evil man it is obvious that Manchester is a city that takes the concept of good neighbourliness very seriously.
Matthew D’Ancona also wrote:
‘‘‘I am the resurrection and I am the life’’ is not just a biblical text but a cherished lyric of Manchester’s most beloved band, the Stone Roses. Today the world mourns for the city. But be in no doubt; it will rise again.’
As the Mancunian, Muslim comedienne Ayesha Hazarika also reminded us yesterday people of faith always need to remember that ultimately ‘hope triumphs over hate.’ This doesn’t mean pretending that evil doesn’t happen but being committed to being the good in the midst of evil; just as the people of Manchester did yesterday.
Of course we must also be aware that the harsh reality is that good people have lost loved ones, hearts have been ripped apart, a terrible price has been paid and so let us keep a short period of silence, holding the people of Manchester and especially those who have suffered the unimaginable loss of a son or daughter before God, Amen.
Rev. Andrew Lightbown