ON SATURDAY 24 April 1993, the IRA detonated a bomb on
Bishopsgate, in the City of London. A photographer from
The News of the World, Edward Henty, was killed
and 44 people were injured in a blast that caused damage that cost
£350 million to repair. On Wednesday of last week, the Canon
Director of Reconciliation Ministry at Coventry Cathedral, David
Porter, marked the 20th anniversary of the blast with reflections
on "violence as a language".
Mr Porter was speaking at St Ethelburga's Centre for
Reconciliation and Peace, which is housed in St
Ethelburga-the-Virgin within Bishopsgate, the church that was half-
destroyed in the bombing. The centre hosts more than 100 events a
year, which explore the relationship between faith and conflict, as
well as interfaith dialogue and training. Overlooked by a
stained-glass window of St Ethelburga, created from the fragments
that remained after the bombing, Mr Porter, who is from Northern
Ireland, said that he felt "a certain measure of responsibility for
the events that led us here today".
Violence, he said, "works - that is why people do it. . . Not
that it brings about positive, constructive outcomes, but it
changes the game, focuses minds, limits options, and makes people
behave in ways they do not necessarily choose to do."
The conflict in Northern Ireland, a "deeply divided" place, was
"far from over", he said. "There is still no agreement about the
legitimacy of the state. That is not going to change much in my
lifetime. All we have agreed to do is stop killing each other about
that disagreement." There was still a "profound lack of
conversation" in a "community in denial", where "we still do not
have each other around for supper."
The director of the centre, Simon Keyes, described how the
church had been rebuilt after the bomb, "against professional and
ecclesiastical advice to sell the site", and had since been visited
by about 90,000 people, including the Vice-President of Iran, and
British and Burmese survivors of the Second World War.
"We have learned how to help people have difficult
conversations, to enable people to tell their stories, how to help
The evening ended with music by the Brazilian percussionist
Adriano Adewale, who improvised a piece in which the audience was
divided into three groups, producing three different sounds that
mimicked an argument.
"The idea was to create a chaos: a confusing, uncomfortable
situation," he said, before leading a more harmonious song, and
even persuading Mr Porter to dance. "In my country," Mr Adewale
said, "you may not invite people around for supper, but when they
come round; there will always be dancing."