Following the Manchester bombing there was a massive outpouring of expressions of solidarity with the UK. People changed their Facebook profiles to demonstrate their sympathy with those who lost family members, politicians condemned the attack on our way of life, and asserted that we will not give in to terrorists, just as happened in the wake of the Paris attacks.
We condemn this senseless attack, particularly as it callously targeted innocent young girls. News reports have focussed on the families whose lives have been destroyed. Our hearts go out to those who have lost their loved ones. Equally, we stand with those in the Muslim community who condemn such violence in the name of Islam; and we recall the words of Pope Francis in April “Let us say …a firm and clear ‘No!’ to every form of violence, vengeance and hatred carried out in the name of religion or in the name of God.”
After Paris we highlighted dozens of mostly invisible terrorist attacks in the Middle East and Africa in the months prior. Now, with Manchester, we can only repeat the message. Suicide bombings, including incidents in which many children have been killed, are a regular occurrence in Iraq, Turkey, Afghanistan, and other parts of the Middle East in these times; but rarely do Europeans even note these attacks. Cannot our compassion extend to all those who suffer, not only to our immediate neighbours?
No doubt the government will bring in increased anti-terrorist measures and increased surveillance in the name of security. There is a place for all reasonable security arrangements. But these will never protect us until we address the root causes of such violence. Something Donald Trump failed to do when, a few days before Manchester, he lectured a gathering of leaders from majority Muslim countries on faith, and, of all things, tolerance. Then he cut a grim deal with the authoritarian regime that rules Saudi Arabia, cementing $110 Billion in arms sales, claiming this was to aid this key US ally with their security.
The reality is that these US weapons, and the weapons sold to the Saudis by the UK are being used to conduct a devastating bombing campaign on Yemen that has taken the lives of thousands of civilians. Some 20 million people there are on the brink of starvation due to the Saudi blockade. This US backed war on the Shia Houthi people of Yemen will fuel anger, resentment, and hatred, not only against the Saudi attackers, but also against their US and UK backers, and will spawn future Manchester.
If we want to be secure we must start by ending the policy of support for the Saudi war. Bombing is not the answer. Instead, as Patrick T. Hiller argues elsewhere in this issue of Peace & Justice News we should re-direct the vast resources consumed by global military spending to peacebuilding programmes that eradicate poverty and offer hope to masses of young people across the developing world.