A fortnight of HOPEful responses

During 82 seconds on Wednesday 22 March, Briton Khalid Masood drove a car into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge, killing and injuring more than 50 people; fatally stabbed an unarmed police officer in New Palace Yard; and was shot and killed by an armed police officer. Over the next fortnight, these were some of the responses. Governments please take note.

Friday 24 March

Sheikh Mohammad al Hilli, of the Shia Muslim Council; Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby; the Chief Rabbi, Ephraim Mirvis; the Chief Imam of the Central London Mosque, Sheikh Ezzat Khalifa; and the RC Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Nichols attended a vigil outside Westminster Abbey. The faith leaders held a minute’s silence to remember the four victims, and spoke of their determination not to let violence triumph.

Archbishop Welby said: “We have all of us come together because it is a moment of sad reflection but also of determination for our nation together. We represent the three Abrahamic faith communities, equally committed to a peaceful future”

Sunday 26 March

Muslim women gathered on Westminster Bridge to condemn the attack and show solidarity with the victims. Dozens of participants from a range of backgrounds joined them at the event, organised by Women’s March on London. One of the women said: “Islam totally condemns violence of any sort. This is abhorrent to us.” Others spoke of the “overwhelming” emotion they felt standing on the bridge. A group of women, wearing blue as a symbol of hope, stood holding hands for five minutes on Westminster Bridge as Big Ben chimed 4pm.

The Observer published this comment on the response to the attack: “Terrorist outrages can serve as a brutal reminder of humanity’s capacity for cruelty. Yet it is so often the brave responses of ordinary citizens that we remember. In London last week, the reaction to the trail of death and brutality that Khalid Masood left in his wake proved the point: the sacrifice of PC Keith Palmer, who laid down his life keeping MPs and citizens safe; the actions of the MP Tobias Ellwood, who performed first aid; the medical staff of St Thomas’ hospital who ran on to Westminster Bridge to help the wounded; and the ordinary men and women who reacted with compassion and courage to the distress of the victims.

Wednesday 29 March

Hundreds of people gathered on Westminster bridge and outside the Houses of Parliament, and police officers  held a minute’s silence outside New Scotland Yard, to pay their respects to the four people who were killed.

The acting commissioner of the Metropolitan police said: “I would urge you, if you get time, to go on to the bridge, talk to Londoners, talk and get a feel for this great city and how it’s come together in responding to these events.” One woman reflected on living through the IRA bombing campaigns in the 1980s: “I think it’s so important to show that we all stand together.” 

Wednesday 5 April

That message was echoed in the Dean’s conclusion to a service of hope held in Westminster Abbey: “We stand together; just as in this service the world faiths are represented and will pray together – above all for the gift of hope.”

National dignitaries, police officers, paramedics, and relatives of those killed lit hundreds of candles together to “our shared humanity and our resolve to bring light and life to all.”

Faith representatives, including a Muslim commander in the Met and a Sikh constable, said prayers, which ended with the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, quoting the prayer ascribed to St Francis of Assisi: “Lord, make us channels of your peace… Where there is hatred let us bring your love… Where there is despair in life, let us bring hope. Where there is darkness, only light.”

Clare Bryden, TEDxExeter Storyteller