WITH the area around Manchester Cathedral still locked down, prayers were said outdoors this morning, after 22 people were killed in a bombing at a concert near by.
The Bishop of Manchester, Dr David Walker, has spoken of a “proper anger and rage” that must be directed into a “force for good”.
Greater Manchester Police were called to reports of an explosion at the Manchester Arena at 10:33 pm last night, at the conclusion of an Ariana Grande concert. It is being treated as a terrorist incident. The attacker is believed to have detonated an improvised explosive device, and died at the scene.
The Chief Constable, Ian Hopkins, has described it as “the most horrific incident we have had to face in Greater Manchester”. It is the worst terrorist attack here since the London bombings of July 2005.
More than 400 officers are now involved in the operation, and the public has been asked to avoid speculating about details of the incident, or sharing names of those who might have been involved. Families are still searching for missing loved ones. In addition to the deaths, fifty-nine people have been injured.
Mr Hopkins thanked the emergency services for an “outstanding” response.
All political parties have suspended general election campaigning. The Prime Minister chaired a meeting of the crisis-response committee COBRA.
Manchester Cathedral, on Victoria Street, is situated just a few hundred meters from the Arena. A large cordon remains in place around the area. Prayers at the cathedral, planned to take place at nine, were said by the Dean, the Very Revd Rogers Govender, on Deansgate.
“Our hearts are broken today,” he prayed. “May the victims feel our love, and your love, at this time.”
In a statement, Dr Walker said that the attack was made “particularly dreadful” by the targeting of a concert “known to attract very young fans”. Ariana Grande, a 23-year-old American singer and actress, had an early career on the children’s TV channel Nickelodeon, and has a fan-base of young girls.
She tweeted early on Tuesday morning: “broken. from the bottom of my heart, i am so so sorry. i don’t have words.”
“There is a proper anger and rage in the face of events like this,” Dr Walker said. “Our challenge will be to direct that rage and anger to be a force for good. We will rally around the victims and their families. We will unite across our diversity, drawing close especially to any that the terrorists would seek to separate us from. And we will rebuild and repair the damage to our city, as we have done before.”
The Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, said: “The great city of Manchester has been affected by terrorism before. Its spirit was not bowed; its community continued.
“This time it has been a particular attack on the most vulnerable in our society — its intention was to sow fear — its intention is to divide. But it will not succeed.”
The Archbishop of Canterbury tweeted: “Heroic Manchester, dark evil cannot overcome it.”
On Today on Radio 4, Dr Walker also condemned the “malign influence” of trolls, who he accused on social media of “trying to feast on last night’s tragedy”.
He told of chairing a meeting of faith leaders in Greater Manchester: “We all have the interests of the city and one another at heart. We’re united. And at a local level within communities in Manchester there’s good relations between the mosques, the synagogues, the temples, and different faith communities — and those with no faith at all. . .
“There’s always, after an event like last night, a tendency to create blame by association. And so we must make clear that is not the way we behave or react. The guilt for last night belong to the perpetrators and the perpetrators alone. It doesn’t go beyond them.
“My message to the Muslim community is: you are one with us. Just as you were yesterday, you are one with us. Part of us. A vital part of us. You will go on being a vital part of us.
“You will be part of how we together respond to last night, how we together repair the damage, rebuild what’s destroyed and go forward as the fantastic, diverse community we are. . .
“Most of us are good at distinguishing what is the truth in this. We know, again and again, a little phrase: love wins.”
Harun Khan, secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Britain, described the attack as “horrific, this is criminal. May the perpetrators face the full weight of justice both in this life and the next.”
The Bishop of Kensington, Dr Graham Tomlin, tweeted Luke 6:28: “‘Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.’ Hard, but the only way to finally counter terrorism.”
The Priest-in-Charge of St Nicholas, Burnage, Canon Rachel Mann, has written a prayer of mourning that concludes: “Tomorrow help us be makers of your compassionate world.”