In the past ten days the name Salmon Abedi has been in the news quite a lot. The media have described him as ‘evil’, ‘a monster’ and the ‘devil’s child’. If you have not yet worked out who he is, Salman Abedi is the young man who is now known as the Manchester concert bomber. There can be no doubt that the act of targeting a pop concert where so many young children were innocently enjoying themselves can only be described as an evil act. The young concert goers were certainly a soft target. People were sickened by the loss of innocent life. It was right indeed that such an appalling deed was so roundly condemned. However here is a question. I wonder is there any difficulty in labelling him a monster? A monster is not of this world. A monster does not have parents, nor brothers, nor sisters. Monsters are not human. Monsters have no feelings. Monsters are sub-human. When we make someone a monster we let them of the hook. In addition, in a mysterious way, we let ourselves of the hook as well. If they are monstrous they are not connected with us and therefore we can have no responsibility for them. The truth is more complex than we would like to admit. Salman Abedi was a young man with parents, brothers and sisters. He was bright. He was twenty-two. He was religious.
We need to ask what motivates a young man to carry out such a horrendous act? I think most people would agree that it is such an extreme act that it makes it very difficult to understand. Many people would say he was consumed with hate, and yet there are those, even though we would find this very difficult, who would describe him as brave. Some would say he was motivated by love for his God, country, tradition and culture. In fairness many of his family, and indeed many of his wider community are repulsed by his actions and disgusted at the trail of destruction he has left in his wake? The question as to what led him to do this may take on greater significance for us as a community of believers if we discover that this man was motivated by religious beliefs. As we know given our own background as Christians, it would not be the first time, and sadly will not be the last that dastardly deeds were done in the name of religion. Or indeed what’s worse that the most appalling of actions were claimed to be done in the name of God, albeit that God was tagged with various names. Lest we are in some denial in this regard, think Crusades, or more recently sixty miles up the road where your name could cost you your job, house or even your life, up until very recent times.
If the young man who brought the bomb into the concert in Manchester last week thought he was performing an act of love then he was of course very much mistaken. There is nothing that can be said that will change that. The difficulty is some will argue that there was a love of God at the centre of this. This too is mistaken. However before we rush to judge or condemn the idea of violence being committed in the name of God, however we address him, let’s remember it is not new. Whatever has happened in the past, it does not change the fact that such a notion is also completely wrong. It needs to be stated clearly that there is no justification for such violence in any of the three major world religions. The three major faiths, Judaism, Islam and Christianity neither promote, nor excuse, such acts of violence. In fact all three promote love joy and very specifically peace. So what goes wrong? The answer again is the same regardless of which faith context we place our question and answer. The answer is that extremism takes over. The kernel or the truth of the faith tradition becomes corrupted. The corruption usually takes the form of greed and abuse of power. However there is another key element that is nearly always present. This element is fear. Nothing corrupts religion like fear. Nothing corrupts love like fear. Sadly fear breeds fear. My guess is that when we examine the life of Salman Abedi fear and hate are not far away from each other. I would safely say he was not only frightened of the West but he probably also hated the West. That’s us! For West, read you and I? Two hard questions need to be considered. Why did he hate us, and did we do anything to feed that?
How do we treat the people of the Middle East? Who makes the bombs that kill their babies? Has there been Western boots on the necks of Muslims for years? Do we really think might is right? No matter how tight the security measure it will never defeat hate and division. The only lasting victory will be through mutual respect and love. Manchester was disgusting but so too was the killing of the thirty five Syrian babies the same day. The true way of Yahweh, of Allah, of Christ is love.