Postcard from London

International visitors with a couple of hours to spare can do worse than take in one of London’s food markets. Harrods Food Hall or Fortnam and Mason are legendary. But for something different and far closer to nature, where many vendors display and sell their own produce, few options surpass Borough Market.

It’s one of my favorite lunchtime jaunts during working days in offices about seven minutes away. It sits close by London Bridge and the South Bank of the River Thames. A few yards away is the Clink Museum, recalling the infamous twin prisons for women and men where bishops of Winchester were once chief custodians. To this day it provides a widely used nickname for prisons.

For centuries the South Bank has been a place for revelry and night life. At 10 p.m. on June 3 it was in full swing as drinkers spilled onto the streets enjoying the onset of early summer weather. A white van plowed into the crowd outside the Barrowboy and Banker pub. Then the van’s occupants began stabbing people. They left a trail of seven people dead and 21 in hospital.

A stone’s throw away is Southwark Cathedral, until 1905 a parish church, probably London’s oldest. It became a cathedral when Southwark was carved out of the Diocese of Rochester. Its doors are now closed behind police cordons as forensic teams comb the area for vital clues to piece together the horrible sequence of events. Pentecost services at the cathedral were canceled because of the cordons.

“It would be encouraging, on this feast of Pentecost, for people to remember the Spirit drove those apostles out of the place where they’d taken refuge from terror and into the streets, proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ in every language to every people and thrilling their hearts,” said the Very Rev. Andrew Nunn, Dean of Southwwark, on Premier Christian Radio. “We’ve got to do that. We’ve got to continue to say: ‘We’re building the kingdom of God in this place, and that looks like a diverse and inclusive and celebratory place, not one that’s locked down by fear.’”

Dean Nunn posted this prayer on his weblog, Living God:

Loving God, when terror came to our doorstep,
and stalked our streets
you were there with us
in the fear and agony.
Remain with us
and with all those caught up
in the horror of these events,
the injured and distressed
those who died
and all who seek your peace
which passes understanding.
Amen.

“The terrorists want to divide us,” the Archbishop of Canterbury preached at Canterbury Cathedral on the Day of Pentecost. “They want to make us hate one another. They want to change our way of life. But just like we saw in Manchester, Londoners are responding with generosity and open hearts, with courage, resilience, and determination. Today is Pentecost, and we pray ‘Come, Holy Spirit’ — the Spirit of peace, healing and hope.”

Islamic State has claimed responsibility, as it did for the suicide bombing in Manchester on May 22.

These outrages in Southwark and Manchester outwardly appear to be random acts of terror. For Islamic State, however, they are actions against the decadence of the West. Islamic State militants see the South Bank as a place of many excesses, and Ariana Grande as an agent of “raunch culture” that moderate Muslims also find troubling.

John Martin

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