Another day, another atrocity. A seemingly impossible one to fathom, as young children get blown to smithereens in the name of something which had nothing to do with them or anyone they know, at a pop concert of all places.
Here’s what we know to be true before further details of this atrocious act emerge: Whatever thinking was going through the head of the suicide bomber at the time of the detonation seemed absolutely right to him in that moment. So much so that he thought to blow up young children was the right action to take. His thinking looked real and it looked justified.
Watching the powerful and disturbing documentary: ‘Dugma – The Button’, it is obvious that there is little that can be done to stem this tide of wanton destruction. These ‘Martyrs’ are ordinary people, often Fathers themselves, who love and are loved by friends and family. They are not loners with psychological issues. They are just like you and me, only they believe something that you and I perhaps find hard to fathom. That this is being done in the name of Allah to reunite them with those who they love in the highest level of Paradise [Heaven] and will save them from Hell. These Fathers of small children, sometimes babies who they will never see grow, queue up to be detonated. It is an honour for them. They firmly believe that God is on their side.
“We are not criminals, we are not murderers like them [in the West]… Allah be willing, they will all die. When they hear about these Martyr operations, it will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve. We won’t stop until Allah blesses us with victory”.
It appears hard, perhaps even impossible to try and reason with this level of single-minded hatred. Hatred based upon revenge for sins done to them and those whom they loved. Revenge for acts on their land and their brothers and sisters. Acts which the children in Manchester, who had queued to watch a pop star who they loved dearly enough to be out so late, knew nothing about. So what, if anything, can be done about this seemingly miraculous mismatch between love and hate in lands so far apart?
Well, there is a glimmer of hope. Just a small one, but a glimmer nonetheless.
Elliott Prior lives a stone’s throw away from me in Windsor, Berkshire. He was only 4 years old when he was caught up in the terrorist attack on the Westgate shopping centre in Nairobi in September 2013. He was the young boy who had been shopping with his mother and sister when it came under attack. After his Mother had been shot in the leg, he confronted one of the militants, telling him “You’re a very bad man”. Despite brandishing an AK47 and grenades, the terrorist backed down and allowed the family to escape, giving them Mars bars before saying: “Please forgive me, we are not monsters.”
This one heroic act from a small boy gives us clues into perhaps the only thread that connects both the children in Manchester and the man with his finger on the detonator. That small hanging thread is called Love. It is the one hope left in which we are all connected. It is what drives Manchester Muslim doctors and taxi drivers to work through the night to help the injured and those who made it out alive, and a homeless man to aid to an injured little girl in the street, cradling her in his arms as she passed away. It is what has inspired millions to write messages urging an outraged population to remain calm and not be driven by fear. It is, perhaps the only thing that truly connects us all.
And it was only one thought away for the terrorist attacker in Nairobi. One thought changed his reality from hatred and fear, to love. One thought is all it takes to stop this endless violence.
So why will this never, ever change if there is a small glimmer of hope?
For anything to change, we will need to look in an entirely new direction. John Lennon famously sang: “Imagine there’s no Heaven, It’s easy if you try, No Hell below us, Above us only sky, Imagine all the people, Living for today.”
Until we all can see that all of these imagined thoughts of Heaven or Paradise or Hell on earth or in an imagined afterlife are not reality in the first place, then we’re never going to agree on anything.
Whatever seemed real to the attacker in Manchester was delivered to him via a thought. So too, the switch from fear to love in Nairobi. Thinking is where all of the problems in the World start and where they will end, because before every action, no matter how macabre or twisted, there is a thought.
Until we can all agree on how thought works, there will never be an end to this violence of misunderstanding how life is like it is, suicide bombers and all.