GOOD MORNING night’s tragic events in Berlin – whether the action of a single individual or the work of a terrorist group – certainly cause terror. It’s the currency of these horrific events that they happen with complete unpredictability – dominating the headlines as they choose. What those who carry them out want us to believe is that nowhere is safe – any crowd anywhere is a risk – concert, football ground, railway station, airport, shopping mall, seaside promenade.
Some say that the violence of terrorists is ‘mindless’. I don’t agree. Heartless maybe. But not mindless. There are causes and ideologies. Toxic memory from political failures of past and present. And no limits to action.
For those of us who, whether believers or not, are rooted in a tradition which affirms the sacredness of human life, this is really difficult. At one moment we are the deeply loved spouse, parent, friend. And the next we are simply victims, conscripts in somebody else’s savage pursuit of their cause. I hear reverberating in my mind the words from the old funeral service, ‘in the midst of life we are in death’
So what is to be done – what do the person of faith and people of goodwill everywhere think or do?. Well I think there are two responses and strangely they are mutually contradictory. First we have to maintain a sort of indifference to terrorism. In the years when I lived and worked in Northern Ireland, we did that. Never took unnecessary risks – but never allowed terrorism to affect our lives and our freedom. But we must also do what distinguishes civilisation from barbarism – we attempt to ‘imagine the other’ – to try and work out why human beings can act in this way. The terrorist sees the person simply as another number in the tally of death. People of all faiths see every person as being of infinite value, unique because expressive of the creator who gave them life.
Our thoughts and prayers are with all those who suffer today – in Berlin and in Aleppo and elsewhere,