From a sermon by the Roman Catholic Archbishop on the 30th anniversary of the pub bombings in Birmingham
Just a stone’s throw from here it has been possible to see a fine collection of photographs of many different parts of our world. The exhibition is of the photographic work of Yann Arthus Bertrand, and goes under the title of “Earth from the Air”. When looking at this exhibition, one of the printed comments caught my attention. It read: “From a distance our world looks beautiful. It is only when you take a closer look that the detail can shock you.”
These words reminded me of the chain of events that hit this city 30 years ago today, 21 November 1974. I was not here, but many people have told me of their memories of that moment: a simple evening out shattered by explosions and chaos; the terrible anxious waiting for the return of loved ones, once the news of the explosions had broken; the sense of shock and outrage that had to attach itself to somewhere, even irrationally and unfairly; the seeping numbness that comes when news of injury and death becomes personal; the years of heartache and anguish that follow. Twenty-one people died that night; 160 were seriously injured.
The community of this city was deeply affected; some would say divided. I stand here as a Catholic bishop. I have no real links with Ireland. But I am aware that fellow Catholics, and most Irish people, knew that in the days and months that followed those bombs they were viewed with suspicion, sometimes treated with disdain and, at times, even threatened.
Today, I know, that many members of the Islamic faith feel aggrieved whenever they hear, on radio, TV or in conversation, the casual phrase “Islamic terrorists”. Terrorists, yes. But let us not repeat the mistakes of years ago and include all Muslims in a sweeping condemnation that lacks both accuracy and respect.
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