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Faith leaders condemn attacks

As U.S.-based faith leaders roundly condemned the terror attacks in London, they were also helping people cope with fear and trauma that has resurfaced since the Sept. 11 terror attacks on U.S. soil.


"Pray for the injured, the dead, the impacted, the grieving and most certainly for the perpetrators of this evil."

—Peter Gudaitis

As U.S.-based faith leaders roundly condemned the terror attacks in London on Thursday, they were also helping people cope with fear and trauma that has resurfaced since the Sept. 11 terror attacks on U.S. soil.

Explosions ripped through three subway trains and shattered a crowded double-decker bus. At least 37 people were killed and more than 700 wounded.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair said the bombings were planned to coincide with the opening in Scotland of a G-8 summit. In a public statement, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said the bombings — which came the day after London won the bid to host the 2012 Olympics — have the "hallmarks of an al-Qaida-related attack."

Police said there had been no warning. The blasts at three subway stations went off within about half an hour, starting at 8:51 a.m. in a train just outside the financial district.

Peter Gudaitis, Executive Director/CEO of New York Disaster Interfaith Services (NYDIS), called the attacks “an assault on humanity as a whole.”

NYDIS - and its partners from the Anglican, Buddhist, Muslim, Orthodox Christian, Protestant, and Sikh faiths - extended condolences and prayers to the people of London.

Gudaitis also offered some practical ways for U.S.-based people to respond. “Pray for the injured, the dead, the impacted, the grieving and most certainly for the perpetrators of this evil,” he stated.

He also urged people to remain calm - and be present beside their fellow human beings. “ Do all within your power to prevent backlash and combat intolerance against Middle Easterners, Muslims, Sikhs, South Asians and immigrants. Take the time to discuss and condemn backlash and hate crimes in a public forum,” he said.

“Give special attention to children and youth who are particularly impacted by hate. Gather the interfaith community together and stand in solidarity not only against terrorism, but against any and all forms of intolerance that violate our community or our neighbor’s rights and well-being.”

Gudaitis and other faith leaders also said that people with special needs will need care. “For many in our city the terrorist attacks in London will be re-traumatizing, creating new anxiety and fear. Check in with the elderly, the young, and those still recovering from 9/11 or past trauma to provide spiritual or emotional care as needed,” he said.

The Presbyterian Church of the USA echoed many other denominations when its leaders expressed horror and sadness in the face of the attacks. “That innocent civilians continue to be targeted in London and other places around the world is an outrage beyond description,” said Clifton Kirkpatrick, stated clerk of the general assembly.

U.S. transit on high alert

Commuters faced tighter security in the U.S. when homeland security officials put subways, buses and commuter trains on high alert after the London bombings. Safeguards included officers armed with machine guns, bomb-sniffing dogs, increased video surveillance and more police at train and bus stations.

About 29 million people in the United States take commuter trains or subways on an average workday. New York City accounts for about a third of the rail total, followed by Chicago, Washington, Boston and Philadelphia.

In press conferences, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said Thursday that authorities had no evidence of a specific, credible threat against the United States. But he said, "we feel that, at least in the short term, we should raise the level here because, obviously, we're concerned about the possibility of a copycat attack."

The alert marked the seventh time the terror threat advisory level had been raised to orange since it was created in 2002.

On the scene

Some faith groups responded on the scene, offering relief to emergency workers and survivors. Salvation Army teams were on site at at least two underground stations in London, helping the emergency crews and survivors. Additional teams were on standby.

The teams were offering comfort and basic food and drink to the public and emergency workers.

British Methodist churches also reported they did whatever they could to help people caught up in the explosions. Located across the street from the train station where one of the rush-hour bombs exploded, Kings Cross Methodist Church opened its doors to people who were wounded, in shock or stranded in the immediate aftermath of the blast. Several miles away from the main areas affected by the blasts, officials at Methodist Central Hall, near the Houses of Parliament, opened the church's chapel and restaurant to people who needed support and practical help.

The Rev. David Deeks, top staff executive of the British Methodist Church, and the Rev. Tom Stuckey, president of the Methodist Conference, released a statement on behalf of the British Methodist Church:

"We add our voices to those expressing horror, outrage and concern at the attacks on London this morning. We hope that nobody will use these attacks as an excuse to attack others, but we would also want those who carried out these attacks to see for themselves the pain and destruction they have caused. We pray for all those affected, and for those who are working tirelessly to rescue, aid and support them."

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