Ten years ago London saw shining hope, joy and dark tragedy, all in the space of one week. July began with the Live8 concerts around the world, to coincide with the G8 leaders’ meeting at Gleneagles. Two hundred thousand people filled Hyde Park and thousands more gathered in Trafalgar Square, where they listened to Nelson Mandela on the big screen. This was the week that world leaders seemed to get serious about addressing global poverty and injustice.
A few days later the city erupted with joy when London won its bid to stage the 2012 Olympics.
Next morning, though, joy turned to shock and fear as trains and buses were ripped apart by terrorist bombs. Fifty-two people died and hundreds suffered horrific injuries.
At the time it felt like day had suddenly turned to night, that the world was forever changed, just as in New York four years earlier.
Ten years on, terrorism has indeed changed our lives. Every country, including Australia, has been touched by terror and people everywhere have become used to heightened security. Governments and citizens have thought it necessary to trade some freedoms and privacy for safety.
But while the terrorists created immediate mayhem and fear, the positive and optimistic notes of that week were not drowned out for long. London trumped terror by carrying on with its business. The Olympics went ahead and were a resounding success.
Governments and citizens around the world strengthened their commitment to reducing global poverty and suffering.
Our world remains challenged by war, violence, poverty, disease and lack of opportunity. Climate change looms and more frequent and intense natural disasters threaten. Economies still follow a haphazard trajectory, bringing boom and bust.
Yet in that same ten years, child deaths worldwide have reduced by a third. The number of children missing out on primary school has been halved. The tide of new HIV infections has been turned. Hundreds of millions more people can access clean water.
In moments of intense joy, and at times of deep crisis, we easily lose perspective and miss the long-term trends. But humanity is not condemned to helplessness or victimhood. Humanity has the God-given talents and resources to meet our challenges. We need to find the will to match.
Faith in God leads to hope in the possibility of a world built with kingdom values, despite setbacks and doubts. Theodore Parker and Martin Luther King got it right – “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice”