Why Commemorate Victims?

Why Commemorate Victims?

London. 7 July. A lot of solemn and sensitive services for victims of the July bombings in London and the poor wretches repatriated from a bloody Tunisian beach. Each dead person was innocent. Each terrorist was guilty as charged.

That’s all plain. But then what happens? Why do we have commemorative liturgy for passers-by? Because they were British we are told. This misses the point.

These people were not troops who gave their lives inasmuch they knew death was more possible because of the job they did. Also maybe, because when civilians were caught in terrorist action in past times we held no memorial services other than those annually at the Cenotaph in Whitehall. There were no special services for victims of terrorism in Aden, Cyprus and more recently in Northern Ireland. There were full and well attended burial services but not instant memorial affairs.

That people caught on a bus or laying on a foreign beach are terrible deserve any prayers we may offer. But why, in the case of the deaths in Tunisia, do we have the bodies returned with full military honours to Brize Norto? Why the minute silence for them?

There is every reason to read, talk and wonder at it all but the memorial for civilians is not a case of national mourning. We are all sensitive to what happened to the innocent, but it is not a national moment with full regalia and grand personality.

What it does tell us is something we would rather not hear and see: these memorial services are platitudes. They are authorised by governments that have failed to defeat the perpetrators of this violence. A memorial service says we are civilised and caring. None should doubt this sentiment but we may well ask if we are so caring whence cometh this care? Why now? Why not in Ireland? In Aden? In Cyprus? etc

We organise memorial services for bystanders because it is all we can do to say sorry for not being able to stop the people who did this.

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