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Good Friday came to Brussels early

BRUSSELS (SE): Good Friday came early to the Belgium capital of Brussels when two bombs exploded at Zaventem Airport around 8.00am and another at Maelbeek Metro Station around 9.00am on Tuesday of Holy Week, March 22.

“Good Friday has come three days early with these totally absurd actions,” Bishop Jean Kockerols, from Mechelen-Brussels, said on a Belgium bishops’ website broadcast.

“I weep with those who weep, wherever they are grieving. I am thinking of the victims and their families. We are together in prayer, in friendship.”

CNN reported that at least 30 people died and 250 others were injured.

The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the terrorist attacks on public places and the bombings occurred five days after Salah Abdeslam, a wanted fugitive from the November 2015 attacks in Paris, was arrested in Belgium.

In a statement, the bishops of Belgium said that they share the anguish of thousands of travellers and their families, aviation professionals and the first respondents that were called into service to deal with the mess and tend to the dying and injured.

“May the whole country live these days with a great sense of civic responsibility,” the bishops said.

Bishop Kockerols said that in the same way that Mary stood with the disciples beneath the cross of her dying son, people would stand together in solidarity against the atrocities that had been perpetrated.

“She remained there at the foot of the cross,” the bishop said. “Scripture records none of her words, but tells us she was there. This is the attitude of Christians who remain, who live in a still hidden hope in the face of the incomprehensible.”

The bishop begged people not to engage in recriminating talk or join the blame game about who could, or should have prevented the attacks.

Instead, Bishop Kockerols said, “We are invited to stay with Mary at the foot of the cross today. By our prayer and friendship, we must surround the victims and their loved ones, their families.”

Jean-Claude Junker, the president of the European Union, said that although the attacks on March 22 were directed at Brussels, in fact the whole of Europe is the target.

“These events affect us, but do not scare us,” Juncker said in a statement from his office in Brussels. “We continue our work to deal together with the terrorist threat and to provide European solutions.”

The European Union has pledged that its member states will stand together in the face of terrorism. In the aftermath of the Paris attacks last year, a resolution (Article 42.7) to share extraordinary costs incurred in facing terrorism was passed.

“If a Member State is the victim of armed aggression on its territory, the other Member States shall have towards it an obligation of aid and assistance by all the means in their power,” the resolution reads.

Junker is also insistent that religion must be a force for unity among peoples and never be used to cause division.

A statement from the primary seat of Sunni Islam learning, Al-Azhar University in Cairo, Egypt, condemned the attacks taking place in the name of Islam, as they are in direct violation of the tolerant teachings of Islam.

“Al-Azhar strongly condemns these terrorist attacks. These heinous crimes violate the tolerant teachings of Islam,” the statement says.

A spokesperson for the Ministry Foreign Affairs in Egypt, Ahmed Abu Zeid, said, “If the international community does not unite to confront this epidemic, the corrupt will not stop from committing heinous crimes against the innocent.”

The English language statement continues, “The time has come for the world to make a final stand to deal with the phenomenon of international terrorism.” 

Zeid put out a call for steps to be taken to tackle the problem at the “financing and ideological levels… and to prevent the recruitment of more individuals by criminal terrorist groups.”

He added that the world must come to an understanding of the root causes of terrorism in order to prevent the recruitment of more volunteers to wreak violence on the innocent.

AsiaNews quoted an eyewitness at Zaventem Airport as saying that at first people did not know what was happening and began to scream as the roof of the terminal began to collapse.

A second explosion shattered glass and people began to run for the carpark. It was about 20 minutes before support services arrived to take charge of the situation.

Pope Francis expressed his sympathy to the injured and the families of those who died, as well as offering consolation to those involved in relief efforts.

“The Holy Father again condemns the blind violence which causes so much suffering and he implores from God the gift of peace,” a message signed on behalf of the pope by the secretary of state at the Vatican, Pietro Cardinal Parolin, says.

 

Public celebrations of Easter came under a cloud in Brussels. The morning Chrism Mass, traditionally celebrated on Holy Thursday, was cancelled, and moved to another location as a semi-private ceremony.

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