Barely a week has passed since five people died and 50 more were injured when a man attacked tourists and passers-by on Westminster Bridge, then drove on to the Houses of Parliament where he stabbed and killed a policeman before eventually being shot dead.
This man was from Kent. He was a man with a history of violence and a string of criminal convictions. His nihilistic, despairing ambitions for death and destruction are a dastardly perversion of the Islamic faith he purported to believe.
But in this month when our churches will mark the Holy Week journey to the cross of Jesus Christ and celebrate his fabulous resurrection, I would rather our focus turns away from that man’s actions to others present that day.
Heroic stories have emerged. GB Boxing coach Tony Davis and Tobias Ellwood MP performed mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on PC Keith Palmer but were unable to save his life. Doctors and nurses rushed from the nearby St Thomas’ hospital to tend the wounded and dying on the bridge.
The Archbishop of Canterbury has spoken about one of his Lambeth Palace security guards, himself a Muslim and someone who had been narrowly missed by the speeding vehicle on the bridge, who spent time helping the injured before he insisted on continuing his journey into work. He completed his shift as normal, resolutely refusing to allow terrorists to disrupt his life or his commitments.
Perhaps most importantly, when armed police warned Khalid Masood (formerly Adrian Russell Ajao) and, when he ignored their warnings and they shot him dead, the next thing that happened was that within a few minutes, that same person was being treated on the ground by the very people he had sought to kill.
The Archbishop, speaking in the House of Lords two days after the attack, noted these acts of dignity and sacrificial love and talked of how they reflect a deep-seated narrative that is part of our national story, and has been part of our identity for nearly 2,000 years.
“At this time of year [when] we look forward to Holy Week and Easter – [these heroes’ actions speak] of a God who stands with the suffering, and brings justice, and whose resurrection has given to believer and unbeliever the sense that where we do what is right; where we behave properly; where that generosity and extraordinary sense of duty that leads people to treat a terrorist is shown; where that bravery of someone like PC Keith Palmer is demonstrated, [there is a victory] over what is evil, despairing and bad; that there is a victory for what is right and good.”
May you know the victory of Jesus Christ over sin, evil and death this Easter. May the Lord bless you, keep you and make his face to shine upon you. This day and always. Amen.
Rev David Green