Thursday, October 14, 2010

London inquest into 7/7 bombings begins, bringing closure for some while opening old wounds for others

As the inquest into the bombing five years ago gets underway, a rise in tensions between British communities is possible. It is important to stress the bridge building and reconciliation in order to avoid similar tragedies in the future.

It has been five years since four young men stepped onto London’s public transport at rush hour, each carrying a rucksack full of explosives. In a terrorist attack that shocked and saddened Britons of all backgrounds, 52 people died while around 700 were injured.

Four days ago, the long-awaited inquest into the 7/7 attacks finally began. The inquest will attempt to answer questions that victims and relatives are still asking themselves, such as why two of the bombers – who had aroused suspicion in the past – were no longer under surveillance, and whether the emergency services could have reacted more efficiently. Records as far back as 2004 will be examined in order to give victims and relatives a fuller picture of events running up to the attacks.

Until now, calls by victims and relatives for a full inquiry have gone unanswered. Many feel that official accounts of the attacks have been “insufficient, inaccurate and misleading”. The lateness of the inquiry is, however, stirring up mixed feelings for some.

"It took me years to deal with the anger. I don't want to feel angry again,” said Dania Gorodi who lost her sister Michaela in the attacks. Many family members feel that listening to statements about their loved ones could stir up old feelings that they have spent many years trying to work through, while the inquest will provide no concrete results to speak of.

Some relatives and victims are pleased that an inquest will finally look into the reasons why their loved ones were exposed to a deadly terrorist attack. However, the process risks reviving tensions within multi-cultural British communities, and could be detrimental to the emotional progress that some of the victims have made through the revival of painful memories and feelings of revenge. It will require a very delicate approach to ensure that the inquest provides positive results for families and victims, rather than setting back the emotional progress that some have made.

Letting go of unproductive feelings of revenge is a breakthrough that many of the victims have already made. Gill Hicks is a figure of hope, optimism and strength. She lost both her legs in the bombings, when Germaine Lindsay detonated a bomb on a Piccadilly Line tube train two steps away from her. Despite losing 75% of her blood and almost dying on the way to hospital, she made a speedy recovery, learning to use prosthetic legs quickly enough to walk up the aisle and marry Joe Kerr less than six months later.

Her ordeal has left her with no desire to avenger herself on those who carried out the attacks. On the contrary, she believes in the possibility of achieving peace, and has formed the charity Making a Difference for Peace. Based on the premise that peace starts from within, and each person is responsible for their individual contribution to resolve conflicts, the charity works through public awareness, education and bridging divides between communities. Hicks’ initiative focuses on the positive that can come out of tragic events.

While families and victims are owed the closure that the inquest will hopefully provide to them, it is important to stress the fact that to avoid such tragedies in the future, we must overcome tensions between communities and renounce revenge in favour of reconciliation.

Read more about the London bombings inquest and the family’s reactions here:  (BBC)

Read more about Gill Hicks’ experience here (Daily Mail)

Click here (The Independent) or here (The Guardian) for the latest news on the progress of the inquest.

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