Manchester bombing: An attack on innocence
It was a deliberate attack on innocence and joy. Children buzzing with energy at the end of an exciting show by their favourite pop star, with music in their ears and smiles on their young faces.
That was the moment someone chose to indulge their own bitterness, their spite and their hate. With explosives and nails and unfathomable cruelty.
This was an event the bomber knew would attract young fans, teenage girls in particular. They selected the young and the vulnerable as victims because they think they represent our weak spot. Seeking to divide us, to terrorise us, they target that which we hold most dear. Our children. Our freedom. Our future.
At first, such cruelty is impossible to understand. And then we remember that human history is shaped by acts of unfathomable violence. Terrorism is not new. For centuries, it has been the weapon of choice for those seeking to reconfigure the social structures and norms of the day on their terms.
The strategy is to provoke, to get a reaction that contradicts the principles we cherish and they seek to undermine.
In a diverse and cosmopolitan city like Manchester, strength comes through tolerance of difference and intolerance of injustice. There will always be tensions and arguments, but respecting other people's right to see the world differently, supporting them in times of need, that is the glue that holds communities and societies together.
Experience tells us that, in reacting to the agony of last night's violence against our children, we must remain true to those values, however hard that may be. To lash out would be to play into the hands of the bomber and his accomplices.
There will be voices shouting for vengeance and retribution, but strength comes from calmness and resolution. The emergency service personnel, who responded with such professionalism and selflessness, epitomise true courage when the risks are high.
The efficiency of medical staff in treating and comforting the victims and their families helps vaccinate our society against the cancer of hate.
Those queuing to give their blood in Manchester today, people of all backgrounds and faiths, understand that we are all the same beneath the skin. This is a time for reaching out, not hunkering down.
Manchester united is the fitting response to a vicious attack on fair Manchester city.