Friday, July 08, 2005

What should have been a joyful day

Birmingham, England

July 8, 2005

Yesterday was meant to be a joyful day in our family, because it was the day that little Hannah came home from the hospital -- as the cries coming from upstairs right now, and on and off through the night, remind us. Let's just say that our granddaughter is having a tad of trouble getting settled in her new home, and that her parents are learning that God has a good reason for having offspring when we are young: that is the only time when most of us can cope with the grinding tiredness that goes with it!

However, our joy was marred by the horrendous attacks in Central London, all of which have the signature of Islamic fundamentalist militants written over them. I suspect the intelligence and security services know more about the identity of the perpetrators than they are letting on, although there were rumors broadcast this morning that this could be the work of an Al Qaeda sleeper cell that is possibly based in the West Midlands -- in other words around where I am writing this from. 300 British subjects are known to have gone to Al Qaeda camps in Afghanistan, and the price number might be ten times that.

We were getting ready for Hannah's homecoming yesterday when our son-in-law, off on chores in his car, called us to tell us to put on the television because there was something going on in London. We spent the rest of the morning glued to the screen, much as we were on 9/11. There was the inevitable confusion, and at one point they were reporting as many as seven bombs, but as the day progressed it became clear that there were just four -- three in the Underground and one on a bus that (miraculously) blew up right outside the offices of the British Medical Association at a time when the building was packed with doctors!

What was supposed to have been a joyful day for the nation's capital, as it celebrated its surprise awarding of the Olympic Games in 2012, turned into sorrow with great rapidity. Although there were less casualties than in Madrid or New York, the terrorists' goal seems to have been the maximum disruption of the city's transportation system at the time when Britain had the honor of hosting so many of the world's leaders.

Clearly the bombings were timed to coincide with the opening of G8 in Scotland, particularly as many of the leading security experts were at Gleneagles and not in the London area. Getting London the day after the success of the Olympic bid was, in terrorist eyes, a bonus they perhaps had not expected. Ironically, the immediate goal of the terrorists backfired, because having gone into their meeting like bickering children, the leaders of the summit were a few hours later lined up in serried ranks behind the Prime Minister as he spoke to the nation, and the French PM went so far as saying that "today we are all Londoners!"

During the afternoon yesterday the Islamic Council in Britain issued a statement condemning the attack, but at the same time advising Muslims to stay in their homes and out of the public eye in case there were people bent on reprisals of some kind. There has been no news of anything like this happening.

Instead there has been the spirit of the Blitz which embedded in the British -- and especially the London -- DNA. In the last few days in celebration of the sixtieth anniversary of the end of WW2, there has been documentary footage on the television of shops in London open after a night of fearful bombing in 1940 and 1941 with a hastily scrawled signs of "Business as Usual" hanging outside. That same mentality emerges again, with London open for business as usual this morning -- although I suspect there will be a lot of companies who will give their employees a long weekend.

This morning, as I was getting up, there was a delightfully appropriate devotional by the Archbishop of Canterbury on the radio. He caught the mood and mourning perfectly, as well as the mindset of seeking to be a people who stand for both justice and reconciliation. It was a perfect word from God in the midst of turmoil, and so graciously presented so that it might be heard by believer and unbeliever alike.

Finally, let me say to anyone who is considering coming to Britain -- don't cancel your trip, if you do so you will have allowed the terrorists to get the victory that they wanted. Security is excellent in this country, and the words of the Charge d'Affairs at the US Embassy in London this morning were for Americans to perhaps stay away from Central London for the next two or three days until things have been straightened up a little.

If I might be allowed a final insight. I have never understood why terrorists think that their outrageously barbaric actions win them anything except the disgust of decent people. Whether in Jerusalem, Bhagdad, Madrid, London, or anywhere else in the world, there seems to be something revoltingly cowardly about blowing up innocent people who are attempting to go about their lives in the normal course of events. Disdain must especially be directed at the suicide bomber, one of whom might have been involved in yesterday's attacks. I suppose what this does is uncover for a moment the Devil's face, showing him up for what he really is.

1 comment:

The Common Anglican said...

Indeed, we in Texas are Londoners as well. My thoughts and prayers are with all Britons and especially with Christians in the UK.

~ The Common Anglican