I’m writing this during the week when the news focus switched, in one terrible instance, from the General Election to the Manchester Arena bombing. In a sense there are no words that can express our sadness, pain and disgust at the actions of this person who, on Monday night, saw fit to blow himself up as thousands of concert goers, many of them teenage girls, left the venue where they had been enjoying themselves. It makes absolutely no sense what-so-ever.
Having said that, many words have been written and spoken, both publicly and privately, on social media and in more formal ways, that have tried to make some sense of this senseless act. Stories have been told of the many acts of bravery, of human kindness and compassion that in some small way offer an antidote to the hatred and evil that was unleashed. In the face of the hopeless we find hope. From an act designed to kill, maim and divide we have seen people and communities drawn together to show their defiance and to offer support to the victims and to the bereaved.
As the week has gone on, more questions have been asked about how we prevent something like this happening again. One response has been for the security services to raise the terror threat level to critical. Locally, we probably haven’t noticed much difference, but in the couple of days I spent in Birmingham this week I have witnessed not only armed police patrolling the streets but security guards being much more visible outside shops and businesses. Did this make me feel safer? If I’m honest, I’m not sure it did.
There’s also the temptation to look for someone to blame. Whilst campaigning for the election has been suspended for a few days as a mark of respect, I’m sure that as soon as it resumes the politicians will see this tragedy as an opportunity to fire cheap shots at the opposition. Issues such as immigration, foreign policy, police numbers, social deprivation and community cohesion will all be held up for scrutiny. There are many opinions on all these matters, some more valid than others, but still, there are no easy answers.
As Christian people we might wonder what we are to make of all this from a faith perspective. It’s not easy is it? A conversation today about the incarnational nature of God has helped me to think this through a bit. We believe that God came in Jesus, and through his Spirit is alive in us today. Our Easter readings over the past few weeks have reminded us of this, and we will celebrate Pentecost on 4th June. So, when we ask, ‘where is God in all this?’, rather than viewing the scene of death and destruction and concluding that God is somehow absent to allow it all to happen, we see the love of God embodied in the acts of compassion that have sought to heal people’s wounds and in the voices that have spoken out against the evil and prayed a thousand prayers for the suffering.
And if God is alive in these people, then God is alive in us too as we set about to work for peace and build communities where all are valued and loved. May it be so in Dyserth, in Manchester and across the entire world.