Last Thursday at lunchtime, an explosive device was partially detonated in a restaurant in Exeter’s Princesshay shopping centre. The device only caused facial injuries to the man who had carried it into the restaurant. However, it and another bomb found at the scene would have caused damage to the building and restaurant patrons if they had been detonated properly.
The suspect, a 22-year-old convert to Islam has a history of mental health issues and police say that he may have been preyed upon and radicalised because of his vulnerability. A key strand of the investigation is whether the attack was the work of a “loner”, with questions being asked over what the authorities knew about him before his arrest. Sources stress the investigation remains at an early stage, but say the suspect does not seem to be part of a wider terrorist cell, a feature that has been a hallmark of past terrorist attacks and plots in Britain.
I suppose that I and everyone who lives in the Southwest and the UK are waiting to hear the full story. Is it a ‘one off’ incident undertaken by a vulnerable and disturbed person or is it the tip of an insidious iceberg?
This incident has raised some thoughts for me. When I hear in the news about bombs or suicide bombs, it is usually ‘over there’, eg Baghdad or Palestine. How would my life and my relative sense of safety change if . . . . . . it comes here? Racism is an issue in the Southwest, especially ‘hidden’ rural racism. I hope that there will not be a backlash against people of colour or other religions due to this incident. And, if the suspect was preyed upon and manipulated by others, it adds a much more dire dimension to the evil that can lurk in all of our hearts.
According to psychologist Carl Jung, the Cold War was the outer collective form of the lack of unity within the human psyche. And so what happened with the fall of the Soviet empire? A new enemy had to be created, a new war or rivalry or hatred. And Muslim extremists rose to fill the bill! The War on Terror has replaced the Cold War. Thus each side hates the other, each side wants to destroy the other, each side is full of bigotry and intolerance and refusal to listen to the moderates and peace makers in its own camp.
Carl Jung: “If you imagine someone who is brave enough to withdraw all his projections, then you get an individual who is conscious of a pretty thick shadow. Such a man has saddled himself with new problems and conflicts. He has become a serious problem to himself, as he is now unable to say that “They do this” or that, “They are wrong, and they must be fought against”. He lives in the “House of the Gathering.” Such a man knows that whatever is wrong in the world is in himself, and if he only learns to deal with his own shadow he has done something real for the world. He has succeeded in shouldering at least an infinitesimal part of the gigantic, unsolved social problems of our day”.
Last night I read these words by the Bhuddist monk and peace activist Thich Nhat Hanh and they somehow helped.
True peace is always possible. Yet it requires strength and practise, particularly in times of great difficulty. To some, peace and nonviolence are synonymous with passivity and weakness. In truth, practising peace and nonviolence is far from passive. To practise peace, to make peace alive in us, is to actively cultivate understanding, love and compassion, even in the face of misperception and conflict. Practising peace, especially in times of war, requires courage.
All of us can practise nonviolence. We begin by recognising that, in the depths of our consciousness, we have both the seeds of compassion and the seeds of violence. We become aware that our mind is like a garden that contains all kinds of seeds: seeds of understanding, seeds of forgiveness, seeds of mindfulness, and also seeds of ignorance, fear and hatred. We realise that at any given moment, we can behave with either violence or compassion, depending on the strength of those seeds within us.
When the seeds of anger, violence and fear are watered in us several times a day, they will grow stronger. Then we are unable to be happy, unable to accept ourselves; we suffer and we make those around us suffer. Yet when we know how to cultivate the seeds of love, compassion and understanding, those seeds will become stronger and the seeds of violence and hatred will become weaker and weaker. We know that if we water the seeds of anger, violence and fear in us, we will lose our peace and our stability. We will suffer and we will make those around us suffer. But if we cultivate the seeds of compassion, we nourish peace within us and around us. With this understanding, we are already on the path of creating peace.
– Thich Nhat Hanh