05 June 2017, The Tablet

Religious and political leaders renew call for civil unity after third terror attack on the UK in three months

Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Canterbury and the PM

Prime Minister Theresa May says the UK are “too tolerant” of extremism and faith leaders renew call for unity after seven die and 48 are injured in a terrorist attack on Saturday in London, the third incident Britain has experienced in three months.

Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack late last night. “A detachment of Islamic State fighters executed yesterday’s London attack,” said a statement posted on the militant group’s Amaq media agency website. The three men are reported to have shouted “this is for Allah” during the attack.

Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster and president of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, tweeted that all affected by the attack were in his prayers immediately following the incident.

"All involved in disturbing and violent incidents in #LondonBridge #BoroughMarket and #Vauxhall are in my prayers this night."

Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, preaching at a Pentecost service shown live on BBC One on Sunday (4 June):

“The strongest power in the world is the love of Jesus Christ. It is more powerful than the evil of terror or the profound wickedness of the terrorist. We need the difference Jesus makes, we need the order bought out of chaos, we need the knowledge of an eternal purpose for each of us. We need to know that whatever other people do to us, God loves us for ever.”

He added: “It is not a difference political parties, however sincere and committed, can bring. But the difference that has to come is a difference that can only be made possible by God.”

Southwark Cathedral (Anglican), which remains inside the police cordon and is currently closed, released a statement after the attack:

'The truly shocking events that happened at London Bridge and Borough Market have irrevocably changed the lives of many people and have deeply affected the local community.  Our prayers are with all who have been touched by these events.  At present Southwark Cathedral remains closed but when we re-open there will be the chance for people to come in and pray and talk to our clergy and chaplains.  There will also be books of condolence and a place to leave flowers. Until then we hold all people in our prayers.'

The Dean, Andrew Nunn, of Southwark Cathedral spoke on BBC Radio Four’s Sunday Programme:

“It’s very easy to say that and at the moment I feel a bit of terror in my heart but we can’t allow that to control what we do as a nation and as people.”

The acting Anglican Bishop of London, Pete Broadbent, spoke on BBC London on 4 June. He was asked “where was God?”, and replied:

“God is always there in the mess. We have a faith which believes in a Jesus who was crucified in the midst of mess and who understands suffering. We don’t understand why it happened, we have huge sympathy, we send our condolences for those who have been killed and to their families and for those who have been injured. But God is there in the messy bits because that’s the sort of God he is.

The London Bridge attackers “respect neither life nor faith”, according to a statement released by the Muslim Council of Britain.

Harun Khan, secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain, said:

“I am appalled and angered by the terrorist attacks at London Bridge and borough market, in my home city. These acts of violence were truly shocking and I condemn them in the strongest terms. Muslims everywhere are outraged and disgusted at these cowards who once again have destroyed the lives of our fellow Britons. That this should happen in this month of Ramadan, when many Muslims were praying and fasting only goes to show that these people respect neither life nor faith."

The Interfaith Network for the UK focussed on the importance of unity in a statement released yesterday:

“Attacks such as these can bring scapegoating and acts of hatred in their wake. Let us work to try and prevent that and respond together to assist whenever necessary. 

Two weekends from now the anniversary of the murder of the late Jo Cox MP by an extremist of a different kind will be marked by the Great Get Together. People around the UK will be coming together in their communities in a spirit of neighbourliness to highlight and celebrate what unites.  Let us seize that moment to strengthen our bonds of friendship and create new relationships and to remember and affirm that we have, in her words, “far more in common with each other than things that divide us”. 

Speaking outside 10 Downing Street after she had chaired a meeting of Cobra, the government’s emergency committee, Theresa May condemned Islamist extremism and called the ideology a “perversion of Islam” saying “enough is enough”

“While we have made significant progress in recent years, there is – to be frank – far too much tolerance of extremism in our country. So we need to become far more robust in identifying it and stamping it out across the public sector and across society. That will require some difficult, and often embarrassing, conversations. But the whole of our country needs to come together to take on this extremism, and we need to live our lives not in a series of separated, segregated communities, but as one truly United Kingdom.

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