image of jerusalem 2015

RIP: 7 July 2005
I was sitting in my law office near the Hogarth Roundabout in London on 7 July 2005 when the phone rang unexpectedly and ejected all thoughts from my head.

7 July   |   2015   |   Subject  Middle East & North Africa (MENA)

It was my Irish partner (then) who was calling to check on my whereabouts and to ensure that I was fine. Partners do tend to keep a fond eye on each other but the dramatic tone in her voice at that moment alerted me to the fact that this was not simply a casual ‘hey babe’ call.

I was okay, I assured her, but I also confessed to my total ignorance about what had happened a few miles away from my building. After all, much as 2005 was not the dark ages, it was not 2015 either, when we must be connected to the Internet every minute in case we miss out on a snippet of information - from the endless intrigues of a MENA region that is insufferably soaked in blood and gore all the way to the red chair spins of the super-sassy Rita Ora on The Voice!

Ten minutes after this phone call, a journalist reporting from Iraq who had become a dear friend over the years called me also to enquire about my well-being. I could sense the hesitation in her voice. But yes, I was okay I added, and then - after a long conversation about how ignorant I was of the immediate world surrounding me - her professional skills kicked in and she asked whether I would go to the studio in central London and talk ‘expertly’ about how this violence is connected with the US-allied invasion of Iraq (in 2003) and the mounting tensions in the MENA region.

Remember, dear reader, that there was no ‘Arab Spring’ or ‘Daesh’ in our lexicon in 2005, but there was al-Qaeda.

By this time, though, and after those two phone calls, the story of the terror events that had robbed 52 civilians of their lives and inflicted injuries on over 700 men and women was on all the radio and TV stations. So much so that I got no other calls - perhaps also because most lines were constantly busy from the huge traffic.

What my partner from Ireland did was a human reaction to check on her lover, just as what my friend from Iraq did was the caring gesture of a friend. (We only got to the interview after a long chat!). This was me - small, insignificant me - in a part of London that lies outside the centre of this bustling capital.

But what I still marvel at, and bow my head down to with a mixture of humility and awe, are all those ordinary men and women who went out of their way to help the casualties of those terrorist acts. The heroism, fortitude and selflessness that empowered them to risk their own lives for the sake of strangers are what make us human. After all, was it not the Greek philosopher Aristotle who once said that “you will never do anything in this world without courage: it is the greatest quality of the mind next to honour”?

Perhaps ethics, religion, goodwill or even sheer neighbourliness all played their parts in those acts of valour and courage. But there is much more: it is the instinct that comes out at such odd moments and reminds us all - despite our so many differences and disagreements let alone perhaps even our enmities - of our common humanity and that of the other. It is an instinct that defines us and helps us spring to action. It is the closest I come as a Christian believer to understanding that we are all made in the image of God despite our imperfections. Such actions are far more telling for me than all the hymns, incense, incantations, exultations and pietistic prayers that have become the outward rituals of our respective religions.

We grew up when we lost 52 lives and scores of men and women ended up in hospital beds on 7 July 2005 as a result of craven acts by ideological morons. To them I only mirror the saying of yet another Greek philosopher, Plato, that “we can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light”.

But much more than that, the truly rewarding counterpart of the day for me was that we found - even if only for the space of a fleeting moment - the sense of humanity that inexorably binds us together no matter our loud protestations.

© Dr Harry Hagopian   |   2015   |   7 July


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