Bombs Strike London But Won't Kill Its Spirit
My train for London this morning was stopped a little outside the city. My fellow passengers and I were at first told very little, except that there were problems on the city’s underground system. All trains into the city were being delayed.
At first, some people were upset. In this part of the world, it is not unusual to find that trains are delayed making people late for important meetings and the like. Within a short time, though, train authorities began to communicate – in very guarded words – that there had been some kind of explosion on the tube system.
We left the train when it arrived at the next station and from there it wasn’t hard to uncover the full, terrible truth. TV newscasts were full of reports about not one, but a series of bombings within the London transport system.
In all, four explosions hit the city’s public transport system, killing, at the time of this writing, at least thirty-three people and injuring more than three hundred. As I write this, the number killed in the bus has still not been confirmed. Forty-five people were critically injured.
Three of the blasts took place in different sections of the world famous tube system, with another ripping the top off a double-decker bus.
As I write this, police are still searching every tube train and every London bus, to ensure that there are no further threats. There has already been one controlled explosion.
A group which says it has links with Al Qaeda has claimed responsibility for the London bombs. This is not confirmed but one thing is sure – it is the work of terrorists.
In fact, it is the worst ever terror attack in the U.K., a sobering fact when one remembers all the years of bombings by the IRA.
This has been a week of ups and downs for the great city of London.
First of all, there was the massive Live 8 concert, supporting the Make Poverty History campaign, with its focus on Africa. Two hundred thousand people poured into Hyde Park for a day of musical festivities which, with its links to similar concerts around the world, was watched by an estimated TV audience of two billion people.
Yesterday saw the news of London’s success in winning the bid for the Olympic Games in 2012. London had not been the favourite, but as the final vote approached there was a hint of hope that the London team had won over the sceptics. When the win was announced, emotions were running high.
Today, the G8 summit kicked off in Gleneagles, Scotland, with the leaders of the world’s most powerful nations joining to discuss issues including world poverty and global warming. It is a momentous meeting; the centre of unprecedented attention around the world.
The mayor of London has said that today's attack was not aimed at presidents and national leaders, but at the common people of his city. He is right. The symbolism may be aimed at world leaders, but the effects are felt most by people simply going about their day-to-day lives.
Terrorists murder people at random. They don’t care who dies, as long as someone does. What exactly do they want? What can they possibly hope to gain?
Mostly, they want to attract attention. They feel that the world has ignored them or their cause. For them, violence is the way to push their agenda onto the world stage. Sadly, violence always begets greater violence.
Terror groups also want to produce anarchy and disorder. This is what really makes them dangerous: they have no positive vision for the future. They offer only a negative view of the present and a hateful interpretation of the past.
Terrorist groups often set out a list of wrongs that they say need to be corrected. But they give no solutions to the pressing problems of hunger, poverty or disease -- even among their own people.
At times like these, it is healthy to reconsider the way we view the world and our purpose in it. Events like these remind us of just how short and how unpredictable our human existence can be.
In situations like this, thousands will take comfort from the teachings of the great religious leaders of history, and perhaps more will turn to the words and example of Jesus Christ that any other.
People the world over will tell you that Jesus was one of the greatest peacemakers ever to walk this earth. His life has inspired some of the greatest modern peacemakers, too, including Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King, Gandhi and Nelson Mandela.
Yet he lived during one of the most violent periods in human history. He faced oppression, fear, extremism and violence in a very personal way.
He was born into a nation that had been living under the heel of oppression for many years. Having had their culture and religion spat upon by their Roman rulers, many Jews were paying up to eighty percent of their income in taxes to Rome. As a result, Israel was a hotbed of political and nationalistic unrest.
As a man of extraordinary compassion, Jesus must have been keenly aware of the suffering all around him. That makes his words and actions all the more remarkable. Can you imagine how these oppressed people must have reacted when he told them to love their enemies?
Jesus knew that people only ever really change when they choose to do so. Coercion through fear never brings about lasting solutions; only love can do that.
Jesus also confronted religious extremism. He had major problems with leaders of strict religious sects, because he was a man of grace.
Extremism is built on legalism. Legalists have no interest in freeing people to lead better lives; they want people bound up in chains, doing only what they're told.
Legalism treats laws as ends in themselves. Jesus taught a different way. Rules are important, but the best they can ever be is a means to an end. The end is grace.
What would Jesus say to a terrorist? He'd say, right up front, "God loves you… If you’ve committed crimes, you will have to pay a penalty. But God is willing to forgive anyone who sincerely calls on his help."
Jesus would also say, if you look at the immorality, injustice, greed and oppression in this world and think, "This needs to change", you're right. But everyone on earth, irrespective of race or creed is a sinner before God.
Every human life is broken at a deep, spiritual level and needs to be restored. This is the root cause of the jealousies and wars in this world.
You can't change the condition of people's hearts through violence.
That is the core of the Christian faith. Faced with the ultimate act of violence, the Son of God didn't respond with his hands raised in anger. On a Roman torture stick, he spread his arms wide in love. That perfect love is capable of casting out all fear!
London may no longer be the capital of an avowedly 'Christian' nation, but much of its culture is still built on Christian values. The terrorists' bombs may have rocked London, but they will not kill its resilient spirit. We can but pray that those directly affected by the tragedy will find comfort in the great love that God has for them.