Dear Terrorists #WeStandTogether

For Manchester x

Dear Terrorists,

You can never win.
Your hate, anger, rage against us is in vain,
You try and then you try again.
But each time we come back stronger and more humane.

Your acts are nothing more than cowardly deeds,
The aim – to plant the hatred seeds of doubts and fears,
Reduce the country and the people to tears.
But every time you rear your ugly heads,
We meet you face on with love instead, and hope and togetherness.
Class, religion and politics get cast aside,
People of all faiths, religions and beliefs side-by-side,
Together we come and in plain sight we stand, not hide,

We do not cower and we will not fear you,
We are humanity, we are one, we belong to something much bigger than you.
And what you fail to grasp,
And what you fail to see,
Is your actions bring out the greatest and best of humanity,
A stronger, more loving society.

Your terror and fear are short lived,
We respond with the love we all have to give.
From the angel of Manchester rescuing fifty kids,
To everyday folk offering up their beds.
Taxi drivers giving rides for free,
Thousands giving blood and hospitality.
All religions, ages, races and creeds.
To the man without a house or home,
Who lept to his feet and raced into danger,
Pulled people out, risked his lives for strangers.
For someone who has nothing to give so much, so freely,
And expect nothing back because “it’s just what anyone would have done”.
Emergency services, our police, paramedics, firefighters and nurses,
To venue staff, who reacted with calm and saved many more people from coming to harm.
Small random acts of kindness – hotels throwing open their doors,
People offering food and sandwiches,
Buskers playing music & singing songs of hope.

The aftermath, a vigil attended by thousands in solidarity,
United as one, a whole,
And that’s the reality.
Although we shed tears, come together and grieve,
And our love and thoughts go to all of the families,
You can never accomplish what you hope to achieve.
Their memories live on, in our hearts, spirits and minds they will never leave.
The fear you seek to create bonds us closer and stronger.
And the one thing we all know to be true,
Our lives will not stop just because of you.
We rise above hate, above racism, religion, above blame.
We see you for what you are and refuse to call you by name.

Dear Terrorists,
You have not won, for tonight the world is united and we all stand as one.

  

  

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Have a look at some of the amazing acts of kindness happening in and around Manchester today:

http://bzfd.it/2rdwkpl

Why I Decided Not To Change My Profile Picture To A French Flag

A few people have asked me why I have chosen not to change my Facebook profile picture to the French flag. It was a difficult decision but I made a conscious choice not to. And whereas I love the fact so many people are coming together to show unity, support and love for the people of France by doing so – it just did not sit right with me.

Like millions of others all over the world I watched the terrible events in France unfold on Friday night. I couldn’t sleep. My mind was racing and my heart is still heavy when I think about the terrible news and all those killed or injured. It was truly a dark day and a sad, sad set of affairs. But it is too easy to forget that it is not only Paris that has suffered greatly this week. There was an earthquake in Japan, suicide bombings in Lebanon, bombings at a funeral in Baghdad, an earthquake in Mexico and an attack by militants on a university in Kenya killing 147 people. There is much less news coverage of the other events but they all still represent a pointless loss of life and must not be forgotten.

And that is one of the things that does not sit quite right with me. Of course I 100% feel for the people of France, of course I do. You would have to be a monster not to feel anything hearing the stories, watching the footage and seeing the events unfold. But I also feel equally bad for the loss of any life wherever it happens. So I think we need to treat the French Flag as an addition to the grief we feel for people all over the world and make that clear in our postings about it. I know a lot of people do feel this way and feel equally bad about things happening the world over, but let’s be careful about how we show that support.

I do think we have to be a little bit careful and sensitive about why we do things. Just like the option to add rainbow colours to represent equal marriage that Facebook released several months ago. The intentions are truly beautiful but are we just doing it because everyone else is and we feel the need to show everyone? Is there more that we can actually be doing to help those affected by the attacks and other attacks around the world? I have some amazing friends on Facebook who I know will be looking for more ways to help because that’s the sort of people they are. I’m blessed to know so many wonderful people.

But there is a culture on social media at the moment which doesn’t sit comfortably with me and I discussed this with a friend earlier.

Here’s a scenario. You are walking through a city and you see a homeless person. You buy them something to eat and something warm to drink. A genuine act of kindness. You then take a selfie of yourself with the homeless person and post the picture on social media saying “Saw this homeless person sitting on the street brought him lunch. Dude was really happy.” Yes it’s still an amazing gesture but it’s tainted by the need to tell everyone else what you did. The deed, as good as it was becomes one of self-gratification and not of the pure intent which you first bestowed the gift. The pureness is somehow tarnished.

(Incidentally if you want to help people worse off in Bristol read the amazing Grace’s list of 5 suggestions here: http://bestofbristol.co/5-ways-you-can-make-a-difference-in-bristol/)

Another story that was shared with me and I’m going to repost here (thanks Gill) tells a similar tale. Apologies for those of you who are not religious (like myself) but it makes a beautiful point.

A man dies and goes to Heaven. He’s met by St Peter, who shows him around. He sees three scribes, writing in three books.

“What’s this?” he asks.

“They’re writing up your life.” Replies St Peter.

“Lawks.” Says the man.

St. Peter knows what the man is thinking. So he starts explaining.

“The first book is all your good deeds.”

It’s a pretty big book and the guy is pleased.

“This second book is all your bad deeds.”

It’s also not that small. The guy is a bit embarrassed so he turns his attention quickly to the third book. He’s confused. It’s a big book, but the scribe isn’t writing in ink.

It’s water.

“What’s this book?!”

“It’s all the good deeds you did when you thought people were watching you….”

I am not saying the flags are bad by any means and I love the feeling of togetherness it has created but it is the reason why I chose to upload a picture of the peace sign made out of all the flags of the world instead. For me personally this atrocity highlights all of the terror and hurt in the world and not just France and makes me want to find out how I can help out and do more about all of it. But please do not feel I’m judging you if you have changed your profile picture, anything but. I respect the fact that you feel moved enough to show a sign of respect and to those of you who haven’t changed your profile pictures I love you too. No-one should feel pressure to change their picture just because of what everyone else thinks. The choices are personal so please remember that before you attack people who have chosen to show their respect in other ways.

“Now the pain we all feel at this dreadful loss reminds me, reminds us that while we may come from different places and speak in different tongues, our hearts beat as one.” – Albus Dumbledore, The Goblet of Fire – J K Rowling.

I have chosen to fight back with words so below are a few points which I hope may stem some of the unfocused hatred I’ve seen spill out over Facebook and Twitter in the last three days.

You cannot blame Islam or Muslims for these attacks

As the comedian Adam Hills rightly states “Terrorism has no religion”

“There are 1.6 billion Muslims in the world right now. 1.6 billion. As someone pointed out on Twitter this week, if Islam really bred terror, we’d all be dead right now… The combined forces in total of Islamic State, Boko Haram and Al-Qaeda make up 0.003% of the global Muslim population… Less than 2% of all terror attacks are carried out in the name of Islam. You’ve got more chance of being killed by a bee sting, a peanut or the NHS.”

Then let’s take a look at the statistics from France:

6 Million Muslims live in France. If only 1% of them were radicalised terrorists that would be 60,000 Muslims attacking Paris… You do the maths and you will see that it’s a minuscule percentage of them who have been radicalised. So please do not tarnish them all with the same brush. This is exactly what those seeking to cause terror want – for the rest of the world to turn against Islam and Muslims and therefore push more of them to sign up to their cause. We cannot judge them this way and allow the terrorists to win. They want us to live in fear. They want our freedoms to be restricted and way of life to feel threatened. We cannot let them do this. We have to carry on in spite of their attempts to militarise us to respond to their sick acts of terror.

How many people have died?

Let’s look at who “ISIS” have been killing. In France there are 129 dead, 352 injured, 99 critically. In the last year reports state that ISIS have killed over 200,000 and most of those killed have been Muslims and some Christians.

The current death toll in Syria is estimated at 250,000 (30,000 of which are children). In 2014, 2,220 Palestinians were killed by the state of Israel…

The Independent newspaper released the following statistics from 2013 on deaths from terrorism around the world:

“Using new data from the Global Terrorism Index (GTI), shows that over 80% of global deaths occurred in just five countries.” Iraq suffered the worst with 35.4%, Afghanistan 17.3%, Pakistan 13.1%, Nigeria 10.2%, Syria 6.0%…

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Read the full article here Independent Newspaper Link

Why have the attacks on France really hit home? I think it is easier for us to empathise with people that we see as similar to us. France is incredibly close to home and it makes the situation seem more vivid and real. Many of us have lived in or travelled to France. It’s a place we know about and it feels more real. That’s not a bad thing – it’s human nature but in doing so we must not forget all the others who are suffering.

We also shouldn’t forget that it is our unmanned drones that are blowing holes in Syria and Iraq. The difference being these attacks are sanctioned by our Governments, so that makes it okay right? I don’t believe so. It’s faceless and senseless killing with little thought for any of the innocent who get in the way of it.

I think veteran of World War 1, Harry Patch sums up my feelings about this best:

“I felt then, as I feel now, that the politicians who took us to war should have been given the guns and told to settle their differences themselves, instead of organising nothing better than legalised mass murder.”

The atrocities in Paris were not an act of religion. They were an act of murder and killing by some very sick and disgusting individuals. The word religion in it’s most basic from means “to bind” or “to bond” – it signifies a coming together of people who share the same beliefs. A unity. If nothing else these events have proven once more that there is a solidarity in the world. As France grieves the whole world joins hands with it in a united show of support, love, strength and light in its darkest of hours.

“Spirituality is not religion. Religion divides people, belief in something unites them.” – Flight of the Phoenix.

Let’s blame the refugees…

I’ve seen numerous attempts to blame refugees for these attacks. Sorry but this is exactly the reason why these people are refugees. They are fleeing from places and lives where living in fear is a daily occurrence. I’ve seen numerous posts by people with pictures of World War 2 with quotes such as “we didn’t run away like cowards, we stood our ground and fought”. Sorry to burst your bubbles but did we not evacuate people to the country for safety? Did people not leave the UK and look for safer places to live in order to protect themselves and their families? This situation is no different. The main difference is they come from countries where they do not have the protection and support that we have in Britain. Our Governments put actions in place to allow for us to evacuate people safely. We forget how lucky we are.  At the end of the day they are people. Let us not forget this.  People who have experienced things that we cannot even begin to imagine. Show some humanity and compassion and just because you are lucky enough to have food on your table, a roof over your heads, a job to earn money and your family around you – please remember there are those in other countries that do not and by no fault of their own. They are all individuals and it must be as individuals that we form opinions of them. We cannot treat them all in the same biased way.

There have been numerous posts about “shutting our borders” and “keeping them all out”. Posts that are essentially racist wrapped up in a pretty bow to hide their true colours.

Yes these terrorists may well have travelled with refugees but that does not make them refugees. It makes them terrorists disguised as refugees. There is a big difference. If you think closing the borders is going to make any difference you are deluded. Many of these terrorists will be travelling on forged passports and entering fairly easily into the country. How do you propose we stop them? Ask all terrorists to wear badges featuring pictures of Jihadi John and the words “I’m a terrorist” scrawled across the front? By blindly blaming groups of people we are playing straight into the terrorists hands. That is what they want.

In Conclusion…

I would urge people to focus on the positivity that has come from this terrible occurrence.

Parisians throwing open their doors to strangers and helping each other by using the hashtag #PorteOuverte which essentially means “Open Door”.

To the taxi drivers who continued working and turned off their meters to give those caught up in the events free rides to ensure they got to safety.

To those caught up in the football stadium whose voices united in singing their national anthem as they helped each other exit the stadium.

To the ordinary people on the streets who tended to the injured and helped to administer first aid.

Davide Martello who drove 400 miles from Germany to play John Lennon’s Imagine on a grand piano outside the Bataclan.

“I can’t bring people back but I can inspire them with music and when people are inspired they can do anything. That’s why I played Imagine.” – Davide Martello

To the Emergency service personnel who went above and beyond to help save as many lives as they could.

Also the world coming together in the days following the attacks and showing their support.

Helpers

By all means be angry, but don’t let that anger be misguided. By doing so we allow the terrorists to win and play into their hands. Let us not forget that it was people who died, ordinary people, and that it is those same people who are dying daily all over the world. Any loss of human life is a terrible waste. Let us also remember that killing does not redeem killing.

If the aim of these attacks was to destroy faith and divide people then I’m afraid they have failed miserably. Instead there is an incredible display of love and compassion from the entire world and a feeling of love and support for all victims everywhere. Long may this compassion continue. United we are strong and love, faith and togetherness can conquer anything.