Faith leaders, counsellors and PM respond to Cumbria gun killings

By staff writers
June 4, 2010

Christian and Jewish leaders, along with psychologists and bereavement counsellors, are among those who have continued to offer messages of condolence and support to those grieving the killing of at least twelve people, and the injury of many more, in the shootings carried out by taxi driver Derrick Bird in Whitehaven and surrounding areas of west Cumbria.

The Prime Minister, David Cameron, will visit the area later today (4 June 2010), as police continue to investigate the killings and local people try to make sense of the outbreak of murderous violence by someone who has otherwise been described as a friendly, quiet and inoffensive man.

Catholic and Anglican Bishops spoke about the tragedy to Premier Christian Radio soon after the killings, offering messages of support and hope for those affected.

"One would be very wary giving out answers. We're standing here before what [people] call the mystery of evil. It is unfathomable that someone would perpetrate such horrors on innocent bystanders," said the Catholic Bishop of Lancaster, Michael Campbell. "In a curious way, such as an appalling deed.... brings out the goodness and what is the best in people. That will come to the fore as it has done and will in the days ahead."

The acts of killing, the bishop said, "will not have the last word."

The Anglican Bishop of Carlisle, James Newcome, declared: "The churches have reacted ecumenically and have been working very close[ly] together to do whatever they can to help both the victims and of course, their families and friends."

"One of the natural and understandable reactions on the part of some has been 'where is God in all this, and has God deserted us?' The message that we're trying to put across as sensitively as we can is that God doesn't take away all our suffering and pain. The message of the crucifixion is that God actually is there, right in it with us."

Both Bishops praised the spirit of the local community. "[None of us have] any easy answers, but you stand alongside them and grieve with them. I have no doubt, in true West Cumbrian fashion, there will be great neighbourliness and deep compassion that will enable them to go on," Bishop Campbell commented.

The Chief Rabbi, Dr Jonathan Sacks, offered his own message to the Cumbria victims and families on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme's 'Thought for the Day' slot this morning (4 June). He said that the first and foremost reaction should be one of human sympathy and concern, but that the inexplicable nature of the killings - where an apparently quite normal person "snapped" - should remind us that emotion can and does overwhelm rationality in all of us, sometimes with tragic consequences.

Those who knew Mr Bird have identified tax worries and minor disputes with other taxi drivers as among the factors which may have led him, against expectation, to "snap". But most say that they still find the transition from ordinary bystander to killer impossible to understand or explain.

A vigil for the victims of the shootings was held from 7pm - 10pm in Egremont Parish Church on Thursday 3 June. People have been leaving their own floral and written tributes at the roadsides where people have been killed. And non-religious counselling professionals as well as clergy have been offering support services to those affected.

The PCR broadcast interview with the bishops is available here:


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