Tragedy and disaster demand all our prayers and practical support, to help victims, friends and family, emergency services and communities through the dark times. And so it has been with the Manchester bombing. Through so many expressions of love and faith – faith in God through prayer, and faith in humanity through pulling together – one can tangibly feel the strength of the people of Manchester, their will to survive, to recover, and fight this evil.
However, there comes a time of great vulnerability. The attention of the media and the interest of the world move on to new stories. It is not that the people of Manchester will be forgotten, but sadly new atrocities will become headlines. As the Church, we need to show that our care and concern continue, lived out in local situations, to show that the love of God in the body of Christ does not leave when the press and crowds have gone.
We have also to remain vigilant in challenging the monsters of fear and hatred, prejudice and suspicion, which terrorism invites in to roam our land. We cannot allow these monsters to threaten our inter-faith relations – in particular, our relations with our Muslim neighbours. When ethnic and religious attacks increase, people will withdraw and cut themselves off. Yet this is the very time when we should be reaching out across community boundaries to learn from one other, and then working together in solidarity to challenge evil through love.
Some time soon, people will begin to say: “Now we have to get back to normal.” But normal, whatever that means, is something many families after Manchester will never return to. Instead of yearning for an imagined normality, I pray that we may strive to be ever-more Christ-like – to weep with those suffering, laugh with those rejoicing, and know we are enriched by our walking with our sisters and brothers.