The Manchester bombing, understandably, has given rise to worldwide praise for the defiant bravery of the people of a proud city and a resolute nation. Much has been said about peace and love, about unity and community, and now, while the grief and shock continues, attention is turning to the terrorist and future prevention in the usual pattern of such dreadful events. Some subjects go unsaid, though they are felt deeply.
When people, particularly children, are killed so callously as happened in the Manchester Arena on Sunday, our instinct is to empathise with all those caught up in the event, imagining if it had been our children who were hurt, if we had been there, if it had been our home town. We may pray too – and every prayer helps enormously. Multiple and premature deaths and acts of cruel finality like this one remind us of the fragility of human life, and to see what is truly important. They can remind us, too, if we choose to look, about the nature and nearness of death.
Steve Jobs, of Apple, wrote as he anticipated his own death from cancer, “No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new.” The Manchester bombing has brought death to many people, directly or indirectly: no-one with heart would have wished for it to happen, but the horror of yet another brutal act of terrorism in the world may force a new approach and lead to a path to peace, for the old ways have not worked.
While I know that there is a blessing, somewhere, in everything that happens, and that no death is by random chance, while I appreciate with sombre gratitude my peaceful life far from Manchester, nonetheless the human tragedy of what has occurred is a weight on me still as it may be with you, too. This is not the end of terrorism – but it may be its beginning. Let us pray for that, as we make the most of what is important in life, while we have it.