As many of my Muslim friends here in South Jersey are celebrating the month of Ramadan, the world and England in particular are suffering the anguish that comes from the horrific actions of terrorists who pervert the tenants of Islam and kill in the name God. Since Ramadan began on May 26 four major attacks have taken place somewhere in the world with the London Bridge attack being the most recent. Over 149 people have been killed and hundreds wounded. Some of the major attacks this Ramadan so far are the twin suicide bombings in Baghdad and a massive suicide vehicle bomb in Afghanistan. Another attack is believed to be perpetrated by Islamic terrorists in Manila in a casino last week.
The most recent attack took place near London Bridge when three terrorists attacked innocent citizens of London with knives shouting “This is for Allah!” A white van rammed into pedestrians on London Bridge and stopped just south of the bridge when three men jumped out of the van and attacked people innocently eating in a restaurant stabbing them indiscriminately. This was actually the third to have taken place in Great Britain since the beginning of the year. In March, five people were killed in a combined vehicle and knife attack at Westminster and on May 22, in Manchester 22 people were killed, including children, when a suicide bomber detonated explosives during a concert by pop star Ariana Grande.
Shortly after one of the previous attacks in London, British Muslim leaders were quick to condemn the terrorist acts. They joined with many imams in expressing shock and horror and promising prayers for the victims. They joined about a dozen faith leaders, Hindus, Christians, Sikhs and Jews, in meeting with officers at Scotland Yard to discuss the attacks. The group’s general secretary, Harun Khan said, “This attack was cowardly and depraved. There is no justification for this act whatsoever. The best response to this outrage is to make sure we come together in solidarity and not allow the terrorists to divide us. I hope my Muslim brothers and sisters will reach out to Londoners and Britons in solidarity to demonstrate that such hatred will not defeat our way of life.”
The mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, a Muslim, said, “The reason terrorists want to attack London is because they hate the fact that we don’t just tolerate each other, whether you’re a Christian, Muslim, Jew, Hindu Sikh, Buddhist, member of an organized faith or not, we respect, embrace and celebrate each other and that’s going to carry on.” He also said, “One of the reasons why millions of our fellow citizens who are of Islamic faith don’t follow the nihilistic teachings of some of these charismatic preachers of hate is because we’re resilient, we know the true Islam, we reject people when they say Christians can’t be friends with Muslims or there’s a conspiracy from the Jews against us.”
At a Mass for Pentecost in Saint Peter’s Square, Pope Francis prayed, “May the Holy Spirit grant peace to the whole world, may he heal the wounds of war and of terrorism, which this Saturday night, in London, struck innocent civilians: let us pray for the victims and their families.” Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury, speaking at the House of Lords this past March after the attack in Westminster, spoke of the “deep values” in British society that gives them strength to persevere. He said, “My Lords, it seems to me that those deep values within our own society… which comes from a narrative that is within our society for almost 2000 years. That speaks of at this time of year as we look forward to Holy Week and Easter 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, that there is a victory for what is right and good; over what is evil, despairing and bad!”
I know that faithful Muslims throughout the world cringe whenever they hear news of a terrorist who falsely contends they are killing in the name of their religion or worse yet in the name of God (Allah). During Ramadan, true Muslims seek to better themselves and the world they live in, it is painful for them that some among their number choose to kill during this holy time of their religious year.
Father Joseph D. Wallace is director, Ecumenical and Inter-religious Affairs, Diocese of Camden.