Two terrorist attacks in the past three weeks have shocked Britain, leaving 30 dead and scores injured, adding to the mayhem of an earlier attack in London back in March.
How should we react? For North England Conference (NEC) Pathfinders the response was simple and spontaneous. A week after the 23 May suicide bombing at the end of an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, the Pathfinders led a wreath-laying ceremony close to the site of the attack.
Pastor Ikwisa Mwasumbi, NEC Pathfinder director, led the ceremonial together with the NEC Advanced Drill team, the Midlands Drum corps, members of the Manchester North Church and several local Pastors.
Young Pathfinder, Rumbidzai Muchenagumbo, carried a wreath to lay among the thousands of balloon and floral tributes in Manchester’s St Ann’s Square. Grieving for her best friend’s sister and boyfriend who both died in the attack, she felt honoured to lay the wreath. She later told the Manchester Evening News that she could now go home and let her best friend know that, “my church cared for you and your loved ones.”
Several bystanders were in tears. Two said, “how moving,” while another gentleman said, “You’ve all done a good thing here.”
It is hard to “find a good thing” is circumstances like this. Pastor Ian Sweeny, President of the Adventist Church in the UK and Ireland has too often found himself expressing condolences following tragedy. In a moving video interview Sweeny expressed his terrible sadness that people seem able to show so little regard for human life.
“One of the best things we can do as people of faith, is show what faith really is in terms of love and kindness,” he shared, whether that is a listening ear, a hug, or other very practical ways of support. “What we have to do as Christians is be there for people.”
Terrorists aim to provoke fear and generate hatred. "That is totally contrary to the way of the people of God," Raafat Kamal, President of the Trans-European Division states. He re-emphasised what he said following the Brussels airport attack in March 2016, that "such acts must not deter us from our mission." He stated, "Clearly we must be cautious, but we will not give in to terrorism. Our imperative is to let the people of Europe know God loves them, and to train and lead in the districts that we have responsibility for."
Dr Emmanuel Osei, president of the Adventist Church in Southern England expressed his shock and horror at the carnage witnessed on London Bridge and Borough Market during the Saturday evening attack, 3 June. “With the barbaric and cowardly incident that took place in Manchester still imprinted on our minds, it is sad to witness yet another spell of bloodshed in London. We condemn this cowardly act of terror on innocent people. Our prayers and sympathies are with the families of the victims and all those affected.”
While the likelihood is that other terrorist attacks will continue to be attempted in Europe and other parts of the Western World, as a church we express our gratitude to the police and security services who work hard to thwart such attacks, and to the emergency services and medical professionals who respond so magnificently when tragedy strikes. We keep them in our prayers. Equally, as a church, we will continue with our mission including worship services, conventions, and all the normal activities of our Christian community, including outreach and community activities.
As people of faith, Adventists are reassured by the words of the psalmist: "The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life — of whom shall I be afraid? When the wicked advance against me to devour me, it is my enemies and my foes who will stumble and fall. Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then I will be confident." [Psalm 27:1-3]