Please pray for our city: A Christian writes from Barcelona
As a family we moved to the Barcelona suburb town of Castelldefels two weeks ago. It's a part of the world which is very attractive to live in for obvious reasons. I'm informed by the local Anglican priest that there is no Spanish phrase for 'breaking the ice', such is the Spanish warmth and welcome.
This we have found to be very true. I speak very little Spanish or Catalan and yet I don't feel isolated. We were involved in a slight car incident yesterday with the offending driver wanting to make sure all were well and to express his genuine remorse. The Catalonian culture truly is as warm as the 300 days of sun they get every year.
After the attacks looked at Twitter, reading the polarising voices of #PrayForBarcelona and those expressing a desire for revenge or simply just promoting their own empty rhetoric.
On hearing the news, I too wanted revenge. How could anyone do this?! How could anyone seek destruction to achieve their ideological aims? What brought it home even more is that we were planning to head into enjoy the life of the city. Heading in with my wife and son, what would have happened if we'd been caught up in it? Could I have protected them?
My sense of grief and shock comes from a place of feeling vulnerable. Attacks like these increase my feeling of being incapable of protecting those I love – it stirs up, I'm ashamed to say, a desire to build walls to keep 'them' out and to hold my family closer. But that's not how we build a world of hope and of love, a world that I long for my son to walk into. To build it demands that we are vulnerable, choose peace over retaliation – that is the way of Christ. Turning the other cheek, going the extra mile, these are the hard choices we must make if we seek the bigger dream, that of a world of peace.
I'm also reflecting on how, as a foreigner who's been welcomed in, I can reach out in love without the advantage of language or a full understanding of Catalonian culture. How can I stand with those who are suffering? I will pray but also, if needed, I hope I can connect on a human level as well. Last night we did go out, not to the city itself, but to the town square here in Castelldefels, only 20 miles south, to sit and eat with the community that welcomed us. We wanted them to know in some way that we are with them.
Please do pray for this beautiful city, for those who mourn, for those who are in pain, for those whose lives may well be defined by this and for those who decide the actions that are to be taken.
Andy Burns is the executive director of Capital Mass, a charity helping churches tackle poverty. He is on Twitter @courtsidedad