When the terrorist bombs were exploding in London, Sarah and Thomas Mueller were chatting about their successful work in the End African Hunger campaign.
They were fresh from a pep rally Live 8 concert the night before in Edinburgh, Scotland, that had capped the campaign. Performers like Bono and James Brown had given a rousing finale. Their optimism that world leaders would help the African poor and ill was riding high. They were waiting to board a 45-minute flight to London. Walking to the boarding area, the bad news suddenly flashed on a big television monitor. Shortly thereafter, police with machine guns came marching by.
Thursday morning, bombs on three subway trains and one double-decker bus killed dozens of people and wounded more than 700. The attacks appeared to have been timed to coincide with the first day of the G8 summit talks led by British Prime Minister Tony Blair at Gleneagles near Edinburgh. An Islamist organization calling itself the "Secret Organization—Al Qaeda in Europe" has claimed responsibility for the bombings, boasting, "Here is Britain now burning with fear and terror."
Arriving in London, the Muellers found public transportation shut down but relative calm at the airport. Along with other American evangelicals on the flight, they had been beckoned to Edinburgh by the call of Bono, front man for the rock group U2, to join the "One Campaign" to persuade leaders of the richest countries to increase efforts to stop poverty and disease in Africa. Rock & roll artists themselves, the Muellers had joined Bono's antipoverty group DATA. Evangelicals on the flight also came from World Vision, Bread for the World, and other groups.
To their mainstay activity of evangelism, evangelicals are increasingly visible across the globe in a broad war against hunger, persecution, and other forms of oppression. They see themselves as fighters, now joined in the global fight opposing poverty. Their shock at the terrorist bombings likewise turned quickly to a fighting spirit.
They grew angry as they realized that their own attempts to shine the spotlight of world attention on African poverty and illnesses was being violently upstaged.
"It was an evil thing to do!" Sarah Mueller, from Covenant Chapel in Kansas City, Missouri, explained. "The bombings take away attention from all the good we are trying to do this week."
President George Bush also drew a contrast between the activity at the G8 summit and the bombings.
"On the one hand you have people working to alleviate poverty and rid the world of the pandemic of AIDS and ways to have a clean environment, and on the other hand you have people working to kill people," he said. "The contrast couldn't be clearer between the intentions and hearts of those who care deeply about human rights and liberty, and those who kill, those who've got such evil in their hearts that they will take the lives of innocent people."
Bush was almost surely talking about the G8 leaders themselves, but the One campaigners who heard it were sure that the "people working to alleviate poverty" referred to them.
Landing into the midst of the terrorist-caused chaos, the evangelicals' reactions were colored by their view that they are defenders of the oppressed. The London attacks were aimed at ordinary people, not leaders like Tony Blair or big symbols like Westminster Abbey or the London Stock Exchange.
"It breaks my heart that these people would take all the attention from defenseless sufferers in Africa by attacking defenseless people in London," said Shayne Moore, a member of Wheaton Bible Church in Illinois. "It is a battle of good versus evil unfolding before my eyes."
She watched Sky Television monitor as bulletproof-vested, Tommy-gun-bearing police strolled by. "Chaos! Chaos! I'm watching it!" Moore said. "I am trying not to cry, chaos and violence gets all of the attention."
As Americans readied for their flights over the Atlantic, they assumed a warrior mode, with prayer their immediate weapon of choice. One group gathered to pray to heaven for the victims far below in the subways. Others discussed how they would continue the protection of the defenseless in places like Africa. One campaigner observed, "We always knew it was going to be a long fight."
Tony Carnesis senior news writer for Christianity Today.
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