Bishop Stephen: Build a society on love not on the fear and threat of terror
There is only one thing that you can't take away from a human being: that is our freedom to choose how we respond.
You can beat someone, starve them, abuse them, imprison them, deprive them of their freedom, and trample over their rights, but you can't make someone respond how you want them to respond unless they choose to; and on the contrary if they choose to respond with love, generosity and graciousness in the face of oppression, then there is nothing the oppressor can do about it.
We see this response of love in many different ways: people going to a concert in Manchester to declare 'one love' rather than cowering in their homes in fear; people reaching out to each other across boundaries of ethnicity, nationality, faith or class. Last week I witnessed it in the Holy Land. I was on pilgrimage to the great Christian sites but was also privileged to attend a talk by a Jewish man and a Palestinian Muslim. Both of them had lost a daughter to violence perpetrated by the other side. They had not chosen revenge. They had not chosen violence. They had not retreated into a ghetto, cut off from those who were different from themselves. Despite their anguish, anger and grief they had made their response a response of love. They had reached out to each other, and gathering other bereaved parents together, committed themselves to work for justice and reconciliation in a divided land.
As we face the fear of terror and the threat of further terrorist atrocities, let our response be the same: let's reach out to each other; let's not give in to our baser instincts for vengeance. Instead, let’s work for justice and peace. Those who perpetrate these atrocities want us to be divided and they want us to cower in fear. Let's not give them this satisfaction. Instead, let us carry on as normal. Yes, be vigilant. Yes, support our police and security services. Yes, seek justice. But most of all, let’s not allow ourselves to be anything other than the peaceful, respectful, tolerant, society that terror is trying to undermine and which love and only love can build.