By Michael Ireland, Chief Correspondent for the ASSIST News Service (www.assistnews.net)
MANCHESTER, UNITED KINGDOM (ANS — May 23, 2017) — Crisis-trained chaplains with the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team are deploying to Manchester, England, following last night’s terror attack at an Ariana Grande concert. The latest report indicates that 22 people died in the blast, which was carried out by a suicide bomber.
Billy Graham Rapid Response Team (RRT) chaplains from the United Kingdom and United States will offer emotional and spiritual care to those affected.
“We’re heartbroken for the families that lost loved ones, and the many more who will carry the physical and emotional scars of this attack for the rest of their lives. The fact that many of the victims were young people adds to the grief of an already incomprehensible tragedy,” said Jack Munday, international director of the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team.
“Please join us in prayer: for the families, for the wounded, and for the many first responders who are working in the midst of so much suffering.”
Nigel Fawcett-Jones — who helps to guide the efforts of the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team in the United Kingdom — is in the area, and shared, “Often at times like this, we have a ministry of presence, just being with people, letting them know we’re standing with them and supporting them.”
Franklin Graham, president and CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, appealed for prayer on his Facebook page: “Pray for Manchester. Our hearts go out to the families of at least 22 confirmed dead and the more than 50 people injured by this horrific act of terror. I’m sure we don’t know all the details yet, but we know they need our prayers.”
This marks the seventh terror-related deployment to Europe in recent years. The Billy Graham Rapid Response Team previously dispatched chaplains to Paris, France (2015); Brussels, Belgium; Nice, France; Munich and Berlin, Germany (2016); and London, England (2017).
Faith leaders respond to Manchester terror attack
In a statement released to the media, leaders from many faith denominations across the United Kingdom have responded to the attack.
“The Faith leaders and representatives of South Yorkshire send their deepest sympathy and condolences to the families and friends of the people who lost their lives in the Manchester Arena Attack,” the statement read.
“Our thoughts go out to those who have been injured, we hold you in our thoughts and prayers. Our heartfelt appreciation to the bravery of the emergency services for their efforts in saving people’s lives and assisting those injured. At this time the need to come together, to let each other know you are safe or to be close to those you love is the most important thing of all.
“Now is the time for communities to come together and show that such attacks cannot overcome our care and compassion for each other.”
Signatories, who affixed their names to the statement, came from among the Bishops of the Church of England, Reform Jewish Congregation, Baptist Association, Buddhist Order, Methodist, Partnership for Muslim – Christian Friendship, Orthodox Jewish Community, Federation of Mosques, Society of Britain.
British Muslims Respond
Meanwhile, as the investigation into the bombing is underway, hundreds of Muslims have come out to condemn the terror attack in Manchester Arena last night, which left 22 dead and 59 injured.
One newspaper reported that, as it emerged that the explosion after the Ariana Grande concert on Monday evening was a terror attack, many people were quick to blame Muslims.
“The truth was very different, as dozens of Muslims in Manchester rushed to help those caught up in the attack,” the newspaper commented.
Muslim taxi drivers turned off their meters and offered free rides to people, Muslim National Health Service workers worked throughout the night treating the injured, and local Muslim offered up rooms for free.
Many UK Muslim groups have also since condemned the attack. For example, the Muslim Council of Britain called the Manchester attack ‘horrific’ and ‘criminal.’
Harun Khan, the Secretary General, said: “May the perpetrators face the full weight of justice both in this life and the next. I pay tribute to the police and emergency services who have worked valiantly to save lives last night.
“They were helped by civilians who rushed in to offer their support.”
Others have highlighted just how much the community has done in the wake of the attack.
Queen expresses ‘deepest sympathy’ to victims
The BBC reported that in a statement, Queen Elizabeth said: “The whole nation has been shocked by the death and injury in Manchester last night of so many people, adults and children, who had just been enjoying a concert.
“I know I speak for everyone in expressing my deepest sympathy to all who have been affected by this dreadful event and especially to the families and friends of those who have died or were injured.
“I want to thank all the members of the emergency services, who have responded with such professionalism and care. And I would like to express my admiration for the way the people of Manchester have responded, with humanity and compassion, to this act of barbarity.
“I urge all those in the region and around the country to pull together to support those affected.”
The BBC also reported that Salman Abedi has been named by police as the suspected suicide bomber who carried out the attack, which killed 22 people and injured 59 in the Manchester Arena on Monday night. The 22-year-old was born in Manchester to parents of Libyan descent, according to the BBC.
Three of his victims have been named — Saffie Rose Roussos, eight, Georgina Callander, who is thought to have been 18, and John Atkinson, 28.
The BBC further reported that Greater Manchester Police said the priority was to establish whether Abedi had worked alone or not. He is thought to have blown himself up in the arena’s foyer shortly after 10:30 p.m. on Monday, as fans were beginning to leave a concert by singer Ariana Grande.
A vigil for the dead and injured was held in front of the town hall in Manchester’s Albert Square on Monday evening.
Earlier, Greater Manchester Police Chief Constable Ian Hopkins passed on “heartfelt sympathies to all the innocent people caught up in last night’s despicable act,” adding that specially trained officers were supporting families.
Among the dead named so far was eight-year-old Saffie Rose Roussos, who was a pupil at Tarleton Primary School, in Lancashire. Her head teacher, Chris Upton, said she had been “simply a beautiful little girl in every aspect of the word” and was “loved by everyone.”
The other two people killed who have also been named are John Atkinson, from Bury, Greater Manchester and student Georgina Callander, believed to have been 18, who had been studying health and social care at Runshaw College in Leyland, Lancashire.
The wounded, who include 12 children aged under 16, are being treated at eight hospitals across Manchester, the BBC said.
Several people are still missing, including Eilidh MacLeod, 14, from Barra in the Outer Hebrides, 15-year-old Olivia Campbell, Chloe Rutherford, 17, and Liam Curry, 19. Eilidh’s friend, Laura MacIntyre, 15 — who was also reported as missing — was later identified as one of the seriously injured in a Manchester hospital.
The BBC said thousands of people turned out for the Monday night vigil in Manchester and to hold a minute’s silence to remember those who died.
Home Secretary Amber Rudd, Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, and Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, stood on stage alongside Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham and Greater Manchester Police Chief Constable Ian Hopkins.
Vigils have been held elsewhere, including in Birmingham, where the event was interrupted after a man apparently armed with a large knife and a baseball bat was detained nearby.
British Prime Minister Theresa May said the Manchester attack was an act of ‘sickening cowardice.’ In a statement on Tuesday from her residence at Downing Street in London, the prime minister said the bombing had been a “callous terrorist attack” that targeted “defenseless young people.”
The arena bombing is the worst terrorist attack in the UK since the July 7 bombings in 2005, in which 52 people were killed by four suicide bombers.
The BBC said so-called Islamic State has said — via IS channels on the messaging app Telegram — it was behind the Manchester attack, but this has not been verified.
Witnesses at the arena described seeing metal nuts and bolts among the debris of Monday’s bomb, and spoke about the fear and confusion that gripped concert-goers.
Andy Holey, who had gone to pick up his wife and daughter, said: “An explosion went off and it threw me about 30ft from one set of doors to the other set of doors.”
Emma Johnson, who was waiting for her children, aged 15 and 17, said: “The whole building shook. There was a blast and then a flash of fire afterwards. There were bodies everywhere.”
Teenager Abigail Walker told the BBC: “I had to make sure I had my sister. I grabbed hold of her and pulled hard. Everyone was running and crying. “It was absolutely terrifying.”
The explosion happened shortly after US singer Ariana Grande had left the stage and the 23-year-old tweeted: “broken. from the bottom of my heart, i am so so sorry. i don’t have words”.
The BBC said Abedi, who had at least three siblings, had lived at several addresses in Manchester, including a property at Elsmore Road, Fallowfield, which was raided by police on Tuesday. Armed police have also arrested a 23-year-old man in Chorlton, south Manchester, in connection with the attack.
Hopkins said searches at two addresses had been carried out, including the one in Fallowfield, where a controlled explosion had been used to gain “safe” access. He said Abedi had not been formally identified and so would not comment further.
Photo captions: 1) Girls praying at Manchester vigil. 2) Girl being helped from the scene of the mass killing by the suicide bomber. (London News Pictures). 3) Eight-year-old Saffie Rose Roussos and Georgina Callander are among the dead. 4) Scene at the Manchester Vigil (Peter Wooding). 5) The Queen issues a statement. 6) This is the first picture of Manchester suicide bomber Salman Abedi (The Sun). 7) Multi-racial group showing their support for Manchester. 8) Woman is comforted after the bombing. 9) Michael Ireland.
About the Writer: Michael Ireland is a volunteer internet journalist serving as Chief Correspondent for the ASSIST News Service, as well as an Ordained Minister who has served with ASSIST Ministries and written for ANS since its beginning in 1989. He has reported for ANS from Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Israel, Jordan, China, and Russia. Please consider helping Michael cover his expenses in bringing news of the Persecuted Church, by logging-on to: https://actintl.givingfuel.com/ireland-michael
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