Christa Ackroyd: Why attacks in Sri Lanka and New Zealand are not about God they are about hatred and power
It is just too heartbreaking. And simply too evil to comprehend. Churchgoers on Easter Sunday slain as they worshiped. Holiday makers pictured laughing and smiling as they met family for breakfast while a suicide bomber queued up alongside them. Tributes from a father who will never see his wife or their “amazing” son and daughter again because they were cut down as they ran to safety by a second bomber.
Photographs of Sunday School children their arms raised aloft in praise at a church where a killer was invited in because the pastor believed all faiths should pray together. Minutes later some of those children were dead too.
And now a video of a man issuing threats against “infidels” with a Union Jack in the background. And monsters like him claim they are doing God’s work?
They are going to hell. As is the shooter whose evil massacre of worshippers in two Christchurch mosques last month is said by the Sri Lankan defence minister to have led to this unholy act of “retaliation”. This is not religion. This is not about God. This is about hatred and power. But then religion has a lot to answer for this Easter. A journalist was murdered as she became caught up in a new and frightening wave of violence in Northern Ireland, violence which has at its heart historic religious divides.
It is not lost on me that one of the 300 who died in Sri Lanka was a firefighter praised as a hero who helped hundreds to safety when the IRA bombed Manchester in 1996 before going back in to search for a second suspected device. His wife died in Sri Lanka too. Their son lived. Then there is the billionaire whose company brought three thousand much needed jobs to Barnsley and who only recently announced he planned to pass on his estates in Scotland to his children to continue what he and his wife described as a lifelong commitment to nature.
Three of those four children are now dead. Just days before one of them had shared a post of “ three little bears”, obviously a family nickname, in front of a swimming pool lined with palm trees. Meanwhile, in France other billionaires have been queuing up to outdo each other with the amount of money they offer to rebuild a church belonging to the richest mother church in the world, a church where no one died, where only adornments were lost. And the International Olympic committee throws in another half million euros so it’s rebuilt for the 2024 games. So Paris looks pretty again.
I am often asked if I am religious. If by that the question is do I follow a particular faith or form of worship the answer is no. Do I believe in God. Yes, I do. I also believe in miracles, of second chances, of divine intervention, though like many this week that belief is often shaken. But amid the chaos I want you to know I witnessed a miracle this Easter. And I want to share it with you. Every day my friend talked to what she describes as the big man in the sky. I like my friend’s view of God, that life is a gift given for living, so live it the best you can. That is how she has lived her life.
She is the most fun, the most adventurous of all my friends. She also has the most untarnished view of the world. And so despite being desperately ill for years and years she has dedicated her time and energy, what was left of it, to helping others who like her need a kidney transplant despite being told a match was unlikely, for her at least. Impossible, even.
Her attitude was always positive, her disposition cheerful. And two weeks ago the impossible happened. Even her doctors describe her kidney transplant as a miracle. And for Easter she came home. For me it is nothing less than she deserves. It is a miracle. But then so many don’t get what they deserve, while at times the undeserving triumph. But that does not mean we should not keep on trying. Or believing.
My mum was a Methodist. Throughout her life she went to church. I went to Sunday school, though neither of us could be described as regular worshippers in the latter years. Instead Mum carried in her purse a piece of paper on which was written the most perfect description of what life is, or should be about.
It reads: “True religion is the life we lead, not the creed we profess.” All I can say is Amen to that.