THE victims of the London Bridge terrorist attack last Friday were “celebrating rehabilitation” but found “only danger”, the Bishop of London, the Rt Revd Sarah Mullally, said at a vigil on Monday morning.
The Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition, and the Mayor of London were also present at the vigil outside the Guildhall, in the City of London.
The victims who died in the attack were Saskia Jones and Jack Merritt, murdered on Friday by Usman Khan, a man released from prison under licence one year ago, after serving seven years of a 16-year prison sentence for his part in an al-Qaeda-inspired bomb plot. All three were attending a conference on prisoner rehabilitation at Fishmongers’ Hall.
A further three people were injured. Khan, who was wearing a fake suicide vest, was shot dead by police on the bridge after being tackled to the ground by members of the public.
Eight people had been killed in a terrorist attack that began on London Bridge two years ago (News, 9 June 2017).
Before a minute’s silence was observed on Monday, Bishop Mullally said: “We stand in silence once more following the atrocity on London Bridge last Friday. We remember those who died and those who were injured, all those who have been affected in any way.
“Academics celebrating rehabilitation and finding only danger; workers at Fishmongers’ Hall and elsewhere offering hospitality but discovering they needed to give protection; revellers enjoying their day and encountering turmoil; police risking their lives for the preservation of peace; medics seeking to save life and to heal injury; travellers making their way in peace and encountering fear.
“All who move towards danger for the sake of others. Our city, vibrant and alive, yet threatened with death. Let us keep silent and remember.”
After the silence, Bishop Mullally read from Lamentations 3: “This I call to mind and therefore I have hope. The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end, they are new every morning.”
After a prayer was read by an imam, Bishop Mullally gave the blessing.
The Dean of Southwark, the Very Revd Andrew Nunn, wrote in a blog published on Sunday that people disturbed by the London Bridge attack should hold on to “a belief in the strength that comes through diversity, always knowing that acts of terror can never defeat acts of love”.
Dean Nunn wrote: “Déjà vu is a strange feeling when we experience it — ‘I have been here before’ — but we know that it is some strange psychological reaction to a number of random things coming together and passes as quickly as it comes. But this was different — I had been here before.”
He continued: “That bridge which has seen so much of London’s history again witnesses another episode in our life.
“Now that more is coming to light about what took place in Fishmongers’ Hall — the bravery of people there and then subsequently on the edge of the bridge itself, the response of the police, the killing of the assailant and then the reports of the death of two of those who were injured — make you realise that, whilst it felt like history repeating itself, this was a different event.
“But the result was the same. People dead, lives scarred, physically, mentally, emotionally, heroism displayed, and the realisation, again, that the unimaginable forces of evil that we have to face up and recognise are around.
“As I waited in the streets with others, not knowing what was happening, I was able to talk to local people. We were all shocked and coming to a recognition that the effects of the events of not so long ago were just below the surface. And if it was like that for us, what was it like for the families of the eight people who were killed on 3 June 2017?”
He concluded: “We talk so much about the values that define us as a community, in the cathedral and beyond, and all of that remains true. We remain committed to openness and inclusion, to celebrating diversity and not fearing it, to never seeing the stranger as a threat but as a welcome guest, knowing always that goodness and love and peace and hope are so much stronger than anything that evil can do.
“This is what I see every time I look at Jesus, who lived what he taught and made himself vulnerable in doing so, but ultimately life and love won. Goodness can never be defeated.”
In a statement on social media on Friday, the Archbishop of Canterbury said: “The sorrow and shock is heartbreaking for those caught up by the London Bridge attack and for the bereaved. The police and ambulance crews are wonderful. May Christ comfort them, and may our nation be given resilience, protecting the weak, strong in facing threats.
“As well as that, what a privilege to live in a country where casual passers-by are so astonishingly brave. Whatever we disagree about during an election, we can be united in celebrating such examples. Let those of faith thank God for the gift of such people; let all of us be glad.”
One of the victims, Mr Merritt, was a criminal-justice expert and a campaigner, a course co-ordinator for the University of Cambridge’s Learning Together criminal-justice programme, which hosted the event at Fishmongers’ Hall.
His father, David, described him as a “caring and selfless individual”. Writing on Twitter, he also pleaded that his son’s death not be made political: Jack “would not wish his death to be used as the pretext for more draconian sentences or for detaining people unnecessarily”.
The Prime Minister, speaking on The Andrew Marr Show on BBC1, had blamed Labour for the murderer’s early release from prison. He said: “His release was necessary under the law because of the automatic early-release scheme under which he was sentenced . . . and that was brought in by Labour with the support of Jeremy Corbyn and the rest of the Labour party.”
He continued: “I think it is ridiculous, I think it is repulsive, that individuals as dangerous as this man should be allowed out after serving only eight years, and that’s why we are going to change the law.”
David Merritt wrote on Twitter: “Don’t use my son’s death, and his and his colleagues’ photos, to promote your vile propaganda. Jack stood against everything you stand for: hatred, division, [and] ignorance.”
Ms Jones was also a member of the Learning Together programme. Her family, in a statement, said: “Saskia had a great passion for providing invaluable support to victims of criminal injustice, which led her to the point of recently applying for the police graduate-recruitment programme, wishing to specialise in victim support.”
The Bishop of Kensington, Dr Graham Tomlin, wrote on Twitter: “Giving sorrowful thanks today for such people as Jack Merritt and Saskia Jones, who saw the urgent need for prisoner rehabilitation — and praying their example will lead other young people to get involved in the future.”
A statement from the Prison Reform Trust, released on Monday, said: “All our experience shows us that policy decisions taken in the immediate aftermath of shocking events are likely to lead to unforeseen and unintended consequences. In criminal justice, those damaging consequences have sometimes lasted for many years, and done incalculable harm.
“At this early stage, we do not know all of the facts about Friday’s events and what led up to them. Attempting to draw conclusions in haste risks not only grave policy error, but also shows a lack of respect for those who have suffered most.
“We will continue to work with any government, as we have always done, to identify ways in which the criminal-justice system can better meet all of its objectives. Those objectives include both the protection of the public and a just and proportionate response to those who cause harm, sometimes of the most terrible kind. But it is too soon to draw conclusions from the tragedy which unfolded last Friday, and we urge restraint on all those who seek to do so.”