John Sentamu: Manchester '“ act of hate defeated by outpouring of love

UNTIL earlier this week I had not heard of Ariana Grande. I didn't know about her music or that she was so popular with children. But I now know much more about her.

the Archbishop of York was among religious and political leaders at Tuesday's vigil in Manchester following the terrorist attack.
the Archbishop of York was among religious and political leaders at Tuesday's vigil in Manchester following the terrorist attack.

I know that her fans call her the “Arianator”, that many of those fans went joyfully and expectantly with their parents to see her in concert in Manchester Arena at Monday.

And that after the concert, after the 22 murders and life-threatening injuries to 59, she responded by saying on twitter “broken. from the bottom of my heart, I am so so sorry. I don’t have words”.

Our world is in pain, groaning
 and longing to be liberated from futility and decay. The deliberate targeting of children and their 
families – with a calculated and callous equation of evil – demonstrated that brokenness.

A deliberate act contorted and twisted within the framework
of a brutalist ideology that exists outside the understanding of shared humanity.

The news of the death of Angelika and Marcin Klis, killed as they waited to collect their daughters from Manchester Arena on Monday night, is a loss which touches us all here in York. Our hearts go out to their girls, and to their wider family and friends. They have our prayers and support at this terrible time along with all those who were murdered and injured.

One of the fundamental laws of physics reminds us that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. It’s a law that salafi-jihadists – the purveyors of these heinous criminal acts across cities and continents – fail to understand.

It was seen within minutes of the bomb in Manchester. The women and men of the emergency services showing their professionalism and care, the taxi drivers taking people home and refusing to charge, the householders opening up their doors and offering safety to the stranded and bewildered, the countless acts of love and kindness by ordinary men and women seeking the welfare of one another in the very midst of tragedy. The opposite reaction to the actions of a lone bomber has been an outpouring of generosity and solidarity – a coming together of love.

The love that we have witnessed stands in stark opposition to the evil that sought to taunt it. It’s the love of which we have become familiar hearing about at weddings and funerals in the famous reading from St Paul, in 1 Corinthians 13 (that great hymn of love), and which we have seen lived out over the past days.

It’s the kind of love which contends with tragedy, endures hardship, is steadfast in difficulty and in the end wins out. That strong and long-lasting love that carries people through both good times and bad. The love that many waters cannot quench or blow apart. The love that can’t be bought or sold or measured out. The love that is so strong and so passionate that it refuses to die even when we ourselves may die or pass away.

In the Christian calendar we find ourselves still in the season of Easter when we give thanks and celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ, his
rising from the dead and his triumph over the grave. At the heart of this Easter joy is the sure and certain knowledge that Death no longer has the final word.

We celebrate the fact that in the battle between good and evil, death and justice, hate and love, love wins. In the midst of the brokenness of our world we have seen the triumph of love over the worst kind of hate.

In November 2015, two days after terrorist gunmen attacked the
Bataclan theatre in Paris, in which 89 people died, Antoine Leiris wrote an open letter to his wife’s killers on Facebook. “On Friday night, you stole the life of an exceptional being, the love of my life, the mother of my son, but you will not have my hate. I don’t know who you are and I don’t want to know. You are dead souls,” he said. He went on: “You want me to be scared, to see my fellow citizens through suspicious eyes, to sacrifice my freedom for security. You have failed. I will not change.”

The people of Manchester, the Island of Barra, Gateshead, South Shields, Leeds, Liverpool, Clitheroe, Blackpool, Sheffield, Radcliffe, Royton, Preston, Whittle-le-Woods and York have shown in their response that the spirit of love has faced down the most diabolical of atrocities.

The pain, grief, anger and the consequences of the bombing will endure for years in the lives of those who have lost loved ones. But the hatred that inspired the act will lose. It will not have the final word. As Martin Luther King Jr once said: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

Or in the opening verses of John’s Gospel: “In him was life, and that life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

Dr John Sentamu is the 
Archbishop of York.