Today is a day in my annual calendar that I usually look forward to. I take almost a week of annual leave to build, or help build, an outdoor set for the Shakespeare theatre company I belong to. But not this day. It so happens that we are quite far ahead, and the weather is not playing ball.
So, I have time to write my fortnightly blog. However, I beg your indulgence. Normally I talk about something which has happened to me recently and an allied ‘soft skill’.
Not today. Today is 5 June 2017. Two days after the terrorist tragedy at London Bridge and Borough Market, two weeks after the atrocity in Manchester and only a few months after the attack in Westminster. So, if you excuse me I am not going write about my normal subjects.
In the true lifetime of this planet it is not so long ago that this and most other countries that consider themselves ’civilised’, killed and maimed in the name of religion or national pride. In my opinion it was not justified then, it is not justified now.
I know of no religion which sanctions the killing of innocents. Not Islam, not Christianity, not Judaism, not Buddhism, not Hinduism, not Rastafarianism, not Daoism … need I go on?
This weekend’s terrorist act hit very close to home. It happened in streets that I had travelled regularly with my wife – most recently only two days before – and exactly where we had celebrated my son’s birthday last year.
It also directly affected someone in the Praxity executive office family. The husband of one of the team is a ‘first-responder’ who was called to the scene. He and his colleagues, who, unarmed, run to help people, are the true heroes in this life.
The natural response to such an act of pure brutal terrorism for many is one of hate and anger. But I believe these are the very reactions desired by the instigators and those propagating more such barbaric acts.
It takes courage and conviction not to be cowed. To carry on as before, neither turning on ourselves nor our neighbours looking for scapegoats. I would urge everyone to fight the temptation to hate for, as Martin Luther King understood, ‘Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.’
I believe it’s people not religion that is at the root of this evil, and the best way to defeat this level of evil is with love, or at least friendship. It is easy for me to write and say this, sitting in my comfortable office chair, safe and warm. So, I will leave the last words to two individuals who were affected by such acts of terror, albeit decades apart.
Gordon Wilson was at the Remembrance Day parade at Enniskillen in 1987, when a bomb injured him and killed his daughter Marie. He became an ardent peace campaigner and his actions contributed to ending the Troubles in Northern Ireland. The BBC later described his on-camera response to the atrocity as a turning point which shook the bombers to their core. He said ‘I bear no ill will. I bear no grudge’, and he forgave the bombers.
Finally, from the family of Chrissy Archibald – one of the victims of this weekend’s tragedy – who requested that she be honoured by people working to make their communities a better place: ‘She would have no understanding of the callous cruelty that caused her death’.
Therefore, to you, my friends, I say be safe, be kind and may your God go with you in peace.