Finding a quiet challenge on a dreadful day

By Jill Segger
June 4, 2017

As news of the attacks at London Bridge and Borough Market broke yesterday evening (3 June 2017), I found myself switching between TV and radio news with a sense of horrified compulsion.

A media 'feeding frenzy' was under way and, despite obviously being under instruction to avoid speculation and to try only to uncover and deal in verifiable facts, the tone of presenters – particularly on radio where no images distract or inform the attention – quickly seemed to border on emotional prurience. The experiences and recollections of shocked and frightened people may later be of use to the police, but in such a fluid and disturbing situation, it was hard to escape a sense that we, the listeners, were being invited to join in a sense of dread-filled excitement.

After around half a hour, I could not take any more, so I unplugged all devices and went to lie down in peace. But sleep did not come. My mind turned and tossed, bringing images of fear, destruction and confusion into the darkness. It was some time before I was able to reflect and attempt proportion. I have been young and am not yet so old. And in these troubled hours, I made a discovery. if I were to be torn out of life untimely by incomprehensible violence tomorrow as I went about my work or leisure, I would have had a life in which happiness had outweighed sorrow, love and trust had dominated over bitterness or betrayal and despair had not occluded hopefulness for more than short periods. That it is not this way for many people, is part of the tragedy of human violence.

By the next morning, that tragedy was growing ever more apparent. Social media was awash with bitter, vengeful comments. Racism, Islamophobia and sheer nasty opportunism were in full, foetid flow and the atmosphere of nightmare seemed to have spilled over into the daylight. The fear which follows terrorist attacks was being compounded by anxiety over social cohesion, civil liberties and the electoral process. And that was before Theresa May had made her “enough is enough” speech on the steps of 10 Downing Street.

The purpose of terrorism is to divide its target populations. Though the people of Manchester and London have shown an heroic refusal to oblige their attackers, three acts of terror in three months are to some extent fraying our moral nerves. But it was at Meeting for Worship this morning that I found the map for the path we have, both individually and collectively, to take.

It is the practice of Quaker communities to read one of our 'Advices and Queries' during Meeting each month. This morning's portion was number 32: “Bring into God’s light those emotions, attitudes and prejudices in yourself which lie at the root of destructive conflict, acknowledging your need for forgiveness and grace. In what ways are you involved in the work of reconciliation between individuals, groups and nations?”

Let us take heed. For unless we follow after those things which make for peace, we can only enable and perpetuate destructive conflict.

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© Jill Segger is an Associate Director of Ekklesia with particular involvement in editorial issues. She is a freelance writer who contributes to the Church Times, Catholic Herald, Tribune, Reform and The Friend, among other publications. Jill is an active Quaker. See: http://www.journalistdirectory.com/journalist/TQig/Jill-Segger You can follow Jill on Twitter at: http://www.twitter.co/quakerpen


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