The weeks leading up to the June election, have seen two terrorist outrages – the bombing of Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, and then the murderous spree on London Bridge. These attacks shock, sicken, anger and bewilder us. Their purpose is to multiply the hatred and violence of the original attack, to cause mistrust and fear and increase retaliatory hate-crimes. The spiral fuels a story about Western hostility to Islam. It is important that we in the UK do not fall into this world-view, which belongs to demonically-twisted version of Islamic faith.
The New Testament offers this insight into the struggle with evil:
‘Our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the spiritual power and principalities, the forces of wickedness in the heavenly places’
Part of what this means is that the things we cannot see – ideas, motivations, stories about religious and cultural identity, are more powerful in causing and continuing harm than the things that we can see. A terrorist can be ‘taken out’, an ideology that produces terrorists is much harder to ‘neutralize’.
Like me, I am sure you are grateful for the courage and skill of our security services and police – for their continual vigilance in foiling terrorist plots, and their rapid response when an attack ‘gets through’. We surely can’t do without them in these turbulent times. But it remains true that a bigger battle is fought in a subtler way – and all of us are involved.
Amidst awfulness of what has happened, I have been hugely encouraged and moved by stories of heroism, of compassion and generosity of so many ordinary people in Manchester and London during and after the attacks.
However menacing the threat of terror, we have good reason to believe that good conquers evil, and every encouragement to align our lives with good. We have to pray and act with simple kindness for a just, generous, loving and open society – one which gives the lie to the story the terrorists want to tell, and want us to believe also.