West Europe

‘Worst and best’ of humanity seen in London attack, says Bishop Angaelos

 

Religious leaders around the world joined to condemn yesterday’s terror attack in London.

“We have once again seen the worst and best of humanity in yesterday’s Westminster attack,” said Bishop Angaelos, Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the UK who was himself present in Westminster while the attack took place.

“I witnessed the tireless efforts of hundreds of individuals whose primary goal was to look after and secure all those under their care: members of both Houses who reassured their guests and colleagues, the staff and security of the Houses of Parliament who looked after the ill and elderly, Metropolitan Police and emergency service officers who were among us updating and guiding us through the process, school teachers looking after their children who were visiting Parliament, sitting them down and singing songs to reassure them, the Chaplain to the Speaker who stood from beginning to end mingling with, and reassuring all those who were there, and countless others, each doing what he or she could to assist in any way.

What particularly struck me was that in the face of this act of terror, everyone involved demonstrated an instinctive and immense courage and resilience.

In a speech to the House of Lords the following morning as the work of the UK Parliament returned to normal, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Justin Welby said that he had received many messages of support from faith leaders across Britain and around the world. He reflected on the fact that a Muslim security staff member at his residence, Lambeth Palace, had narrowly been missed by the terrorist’s car on Westminster Bridge and had stayed to help victims.

“This has been typical of so many in this city – the emergency services who contained the incident within six minutes; the staff at this extraordinary place, who give so much of themselves on normal occasions, and extraordinary occasions…

“But I want in terms of values, to refer to something that seems to me to go deeper, to something that is really at the foundation of our own understanding of what our society is about, and to do that in three very simple, very brief pictures.

“The first is of a vehicle being driven across Westminster Bridge by someone who had a perverted, nihilistic, despairing view of objectives of what life is about, of what society is about, that could only be fulfilled by death and destruction.

“The second is of that same person a few minutes later, on a stretcher or on the ground, being treated by the very people he had sought to kill.

“The third is of these two Houses, where profound disagreement, bitter disagreement, angry disagreement is dealt with not with violence, not with despair, not with cruelty, but with discussion, with reason and with calmness.

“My Lords, it seems to me that those three pictures point us to deep values within our own society – deeper even than ones that have been mentioned, quite rightly, in the Prime Minister’s statement and in other statements – which is the sense that comes from (and you would expect this from these benches) a narrative that is within our society for almost 2000 years.

“That speaks of – at this time of year as we look forward to Holy Week and Easter – of a God who stands with the suffering, and brings justice, and whose resurrection has given to believer and unbeliever the sense that where we do what is right; where we behave properly; where that generosity and extraordinary sense of duty that leads people to treat a terrorist is shown; where that bravery of someone like PC Keith Palmer is demonstrated, that there is a victory for what is right and good; over what is evil, despairing and bad.

“That was shown yesterday. That is shown not just in our expression of values, but in our practices which define those values. And that is the mood that we must show in the future.”

A statement from the Faiths Forum, signed by many representatives of London’s diverse faith communities, including Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Jews, Sikhs, Buddhists and others, also issued a statement deploring the attack.

“All of our religions exalt the sanctity of human life. There is no justification for such a  barbaric assault on innocent people.

“Terrorism has no place on our streets.

“We pray for the victims of this attack, and call for Londoners, and our nation to stand together at this time.”

“We will redouble our efforts to work for peace, compassion, understanding and hope.”