Bishop of Manchester calls for prayer after terrorist bomb attack
Churches have been urged by the Bishop of Manchester to open their doors to people wanting space to pray after a suicide bombing in the city left 22 people dead – including children – and 59 injured.
Rt Rev David Walker said the attack during a concert at the Manchester Arena at around 10.30pm on Monday was not the first time the city had been targeted by terror.
He told Premier: “I’m hoping that churches today will make space for people who want to just come and find somewhere quietly to pray.
“At times of like this, prayer is one way in which we can pour out to God our grief but also go to God to rekindle our hope that we live in a world for which Jesus died and rose again. Nothing, no matter how many killed or injured in a blast can take that central truth away.”
Greater Manchester Police chief constable Ian Hopkins said: “This has been the most horrific incident we have had to face in Greater Manchester and one that we all hoped we would never see.
“Families and many young people were out to enjoy a concert at the Manchester Arena and have lost their lives. Our thoughts are with those 22 victims that we now know have died, the 59 people who have been injured and their loved ones. We continue to do all we can to support them.”
Canon Daniel Burton from Salford’s All Saints team ministry and the Vice-chair of St George’s Church of England School in Salford said: “Right at the moment, I’m just waiting for news from our local headteacher.
“Right now, children are still arriving at school. People are very anxious, the teachers are very anxious, waiting to see if any of our pupils have been caught up in this terrible atrocity.
“People need space, they need to be able to do something at a time like this and if people would like to pop into church and light a candle and light a prayer, there will be someone here to talk to them.”
The blast, which occurred minutes after the US singer Ariana Grande had been performing on stage, has been condemned by Home Secretary Amber Rudd as a “barbaric attack, deliberately targeting some of the most vulnerable in our society – young people and children out at a pop concert.”
Giving his thoughts of the perpetrator, Christian and terrorism expert Simon Barrett told Premier: “This is what they’re after. They’re wanting news headlines, they’re wanting to grab international media attention.
“So, the worst attack they can carry out, the more painful and devastating it is – particularly, targeting teenagers, young girls attending a concert – will maximise headlines.”
Bishop David said the city has known terrorist attacks in the past, adding: “All I do know is that the people of Manchester have proven themselves determined and resilient in the past and that these events, they don’t drive up apart, they bring us together as we care for one another”.
In an incident described by the Prime Minister as “appalling”, police say an improvised explosive device was detonated by a man.
Theresa May is due to chair meeting of the Government’s emergency Cobra committee at around 9am, while 2017 General Election campaigning has been suspended
Writing on Twitter, the Archbishop of Canterbury Most Rev Justin Welby said: “Heroic Manchester, dark evil cannot overcome it. We pray for those in sorrow on the hard journey of loss & pain, & for those who protect us.”
Editor of Premier Youth and Children’s Work magazine Jamie Cutteridge said Ariana Grande has a particularly strong following among youngsters, many of whom will be affected by events in Manchester.
He said: “There will be a lot of children waking up this morning, seeing the news and thinking ‘that could have been me’, and I’m not sure there have been many tragedies of this magnitude that will have the same impact on children and young people.
“One of things that’s perhaps made the event so upsetting is all the pictures coming in and then leaving the concert are of, it seems, of young children, of teenagers of families of parents and particularly young girls.”
The UK threat level has been has been judged to be severe for nearly three years – which means an attack is considered highly likely.
But in recent months the tempo of counter terrorist activity has been increasing with – on average – an arrest every day.
After the attack in Westminster by Khalid Masood in March, police and security officials have been warning that further attacks were almost inevitable.
But they also believed that those were more likely to be low-tech involving knives or vehicles. The fact that the Manchester attack involved explosives will worry them.
It may not have been at the level of complexity seen in Paris in 2015, when multiple attackers sent from Syria used guns and suicide belts, but it will still have required planning to make an improvised explosive device.
The explosion happened shortly after Ariana Grande left the stage as concert-goers began heading to the exits.
The 23-year-old teen actress-turned-singer, who has a strong following among teenage girls and children, tweeted: “broken. from the bottom of my heart, i am so so sorry. i don’t have words”
Home Secretary Amber Rudd said it was “a barbaric attack, deliberately targeting some of the most vulnerable”
The prime minister has chaired a meeting of the government’s emergency Cobra committee and is due to make a statement in Downing Street shortly.
Flags are flying at half mast outside Number 10 and political parties have suspended general election campaigning.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan said the police presence in the capital would be stepped up.
World leaders have expressed solidarity with the UK, including US President Donald Trump, who called those responsible “evil losers”
Police have established a help centre at the Etihad Stadium, access Gate 11, for anyone who needs assistance in tracing loved ones.
Twitter has been flooded with appeals from relatives and friends of missing concertgoers via the hashtag #MissingInManchester.
Facebook also activated a safety check feature so that people can let their family and friends know they are safe.
The blast happened close to the entrance to Victoria railway and tram station. The station has been closed and all trains cancelled.
Police also carried out a precautionary controlled explosion in the Cathedral Garden area of the city at about 01:32. The force later confirmed it was not a dangerous item.
Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham said the city would “pull together”, adding: “That’s what we are. That’s what we do. They won’t win.”
The Manchester Arena or MEN is the city’s largest indoor venue with a concert capacity of around 21,000.
Police are encouraging anyone with footage from the scene to upload it at ukpoliceimageappeal.co.uk or ukpoliceimageappeal.com. Other information can be reported to the anti-terrorist hotline on 0800 789 321.
Source: BBC News, Premier