On 22 March an Islamic terrorist launched a shocking attack on the UK Parliament in Westminster. Five people were murdered, including courageous PC Keith Palmer.
While we pray for the grieving families and the dozens injured, Christians must also pray for those in authority over us (1 Timothy 2:1-2). We are deeply thankful for the police and security services, who put their lives on the line to protect us all. The 22 March attack shows what they are up against.
The horrific attack on Westminster must lead us to pray – for wisdom for our governing authorities, for protection from terrorism, and that the response of those in authority will be right and effective.
Once again it was not a Christian – or an atheist – who carried out this act of terrorism. Our leaders need to concentrate on the real issues and not spread the net so widely that every person with strong beliefs, no matter how peaceloving or innocuous, is put on the same level as an Islamist seeking violent jihad.
Security will be reviewed at the Houses of Parliament, of course. But let’s also pray that the right lessons are learnt generally without over-reaction or panic.
In January David Anderson QC, the former Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, warned that the Government’s current policy on non-violent extremism could see people who practise their faith in a traditional, conservative way face police investigations. This policy looks so wide of the mark. The Government must focus on targeting the real problem of Islamist terror.
The Christian Institute supports Government efforts to combat terrorism and the ideologies which underpin it. However, we are very concerned about the vague definition of extremism.
When she was Home Secretary, Theresa May said that the ‘anti-extremism’ strategy involves promoting “acceptance of different faiths”. This confuses acceptance of people with acceptance of beliefs. This approach has already seen an attempt to bar an opponent of terrorist group Islamic State from speaking at a university for fear she might cause offence to Muslims. In this climate, there are serious concerns about how the definition of extremism will be applied to Christians.
There is a real threat of Islamist terrorism. But you cannot protect democracy by undermining the foundations of democracy. Our historic liberties of freedom of speech and freedom of religion must not be jeopardised.