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We will repair damage done to our city and its people, Bishop tells Manchester

25 May 2017


Vigil: Albert Square in Manchester was packed with thousands of people for a vigil on Tuesday evening

Vigil: Albert Square in Manchester was packed with thousands of people for a vigil on Tuesday evening

THE killing of 22 people in a suicide bombing in Manchester on Monday had provoked “proper anger and rage” that must be directed into a “force for good”, the Bishop of Manchester, Dr David Walker, said this week.

In the worst terrorist attack in the UK since the London bombings of July 2005, a lone attacker, Salman Ramadan Abedi, detonated an im­­provised explosive device at Man­chester Arena at the conclusion of an Ariana Grande concert. Among those killed were children, and parents waiting to collect their children. In addition to the deaths, 59 people were injured. Many are being treated for life-threatening conditions.

On Tuesday, the Prime Minister announced that the threat level in the UK had been raised to “critical”, indicating that a further attack might be “imminent”. For the first time since 2003, troops were being de­­ployed to join the police’s armed patrols. “It is a possibility we cannot ignore that there is a wider group of individuals linked to this attack,” Theresa May said. On Wednesday afternoon, the Manchester police chief, Ian Hopkins, said: “I think it’s very clear that this is a network that we are investigating.” Islamic State has claimed responsibility.

Mrs May remarked that the bombing “stands out for its appal­ling, sickening cowardice, deliber­ately targeting innocent defenceless children and young people. . .

“We all, every single one of us, stand with the people of Manchester at this terrible time. . . Let us re­­member those who died and let us celebrate those who helped, safe in the knowledge that the terrorists will never win. Our values, our country, and our way of life, will always pre­­vail.”

Thousands attended a vigil in Albert Square on Tuesday evening, attended by the Archbishop of York, Dr Sentamu, and Dr Walker, who told the crowd that the city was “greater than the forces that align against it. . . Love in the end is al­­ways stronger than hate.”

In another statement, Dr Walker said that the attack was made “par­ticularly dreadful” by the targeting of a concert “known to attract very young fans”. Miss 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.

PATributes: mourners leave flowers near the site of the bombingThe youngest victim named to date is eight-year-old Saffie Roussos. On Tuesday, the Bishop of Burnley, the Rt Revd Philip North, attended a “moving vigil of prayer” at Bishop Rawstorne C of E Academy, where another victim, Georgina Callander, 18, was once a pupil. A statement described her as “a lovely young stu­dent who was very popular with her peers and the staff, and always made the most of the opportunities she had at the school”.

“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.”

Manchester Cathedral is situated just a few hundred metres from the Arena. At the time of going to press, it re­­mained closed behind a police cor­don. On Tuesday, prayers were said by the Dean, the Very Revd Rogers Govender, on Deansgate, fol­­lowed by interfaith prayers in the after­noon.

“The streets seemed to be a most appropriate place on this occasion,” he said on Wednesday. “It’s lovely to have beautiful buildings to wor­ship in, but we can worship and pray to God anywhere.”

On Wednesday morning, the po­lice permitted members of staff to climb the tower to lower the flag to half mast. Although it is hoped that the cathedral may be open in time for confirmations planned for Sun­day, services are being held in the mean time at St Ann’s, Manchester. Dean Govender expected some families to take up his offer to hold funerals for the victims at the cathed­ral.

“People are looking for leadership and encouragement and direction,” he said. “I think the community looks to the C of E to provide that spiritual succour and leadership at times of national tragedy.”

The Cathedral was opened again on Thursday. The bells were rung before a gathering for a minute's silence, at 11 a.m.

ReutersSolidarity: Muslim men pray for the victims of the bombing in a mosque in ManchesterGreater Manchester Police con­firmed on Tuesday that the perpet­rator was Salman Ramadan Abedi, a 22-year-old who was born and brought up in Britain, by Libyan parents. Downing Street confirmed that he had made trips to Libya.

The imam of Didsbury Mosque, Mohammed Saeed, told the press that Mr Abedi had objected to ser­mons in which he had given warn­ings of the dangers of IS, and “showed me the face of hate. . . It’s no surprise to me.”

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.”

Dr Walker told Sky News on Tuesday that terrorists were “iso­lated individuals” who “don’t repre­sent any wider community” and who had “taken against our society, the values we hold dear, for their own individual reasons, not really for reli­­gious reasons”.

“There’s always, after an event like last night, a tendency to create blame by association,” he said. “And so we must make clear that is not the way we behave or react. The guilt for last night belongs 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.”

The House of Bishops was in York at the time of the attack. There were “no easy, tidy answers that solve the problem”, the Archbishop of Canterbury said. “We know that evil people did a ter­rible, terrible thing of great wicked­ness.”

Dr Sentamu spoke directly to Manchester citizens: “Let not ha­­tred divide anybody, because you are a great people.” He described suicide bombers as “cowards”.

Archbishop Welby was joined by the former President of the United States Barack Obama, and the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, in paying tribute to Manchester, on Thursday. They were present in Berlin for the Kirchentag, the biennial Protestant Church congress.

President Obama said that, "as the father of two daughters", he was "heartbroken" by the attack. "Through faith and resolve, the character of the people of Manchester has shown itself with the kindness and the ways in which you are assisting each other. Know that the entire world is in soldiarity with you right now."

In a blog, Archbishop Welby described a "great wave of sorrow and sympathy" at the Kirchentag.

Vigils were held at many cathedrals in the UK. On Wednesday evening, Dr Walker led a vigil at St Ann's Square with Imam Irfan Chishti from the Manchester Central Mosque. It was organised by the Ramadhan Foundation, a charity established to promote peace and understanding. A multi-faith service was held at Bradford Cathedral, led by the Bishop, the Rt Revd Toby Howarth. At Portsmouth cathedral a prayer station has been created, with the names of those who died written on paper teardrops. A vigil was due to be held in the Ruins at Coventry Cathedral, on Thursday evening.

PABitter-sweet: Manchester United players participate in a minute's silence before winning the UEFA Europa League final, in Stockholm, on Wednesday eveningThe Queen visited some of the injured at Royal Manchester Children's Hospital, on Thursday. In an earlier statement she expressed her thanks for the "professionalism and care" of members of the emergency services, and her "admiration for the way the people of Manchester have responded, with humanity and compassion, to this act of barbarity".

The RC Bishop of Salford, the Rt Revd John Arnold, said: “We must all commit ourselves to working together, in every way, to help the victims and their families.”

The Bishop of Kensington, Dr Graham Tomlin, posted on Twitter 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.”

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