My South London Press column,27/11/2015

The appalling terrorist attacks of recent weeks involving the bombing of a Russian plane, the suicide bombers in the Beirut market and then the series of outrages in Paris has caused an outpouring of grief and sympathy.

It is summed up by some of the words from the joint statement issued by the Catford and Bromley Synagogue, Lewisham Islamic Centre, St Laurence Church, St Margaret’s Church, St Stephen’s Church, Holy Cross Church, Catford and St Mary’s Church Lewisham. They said:-

“We send our sincerest condolences to the families of the victims of these attacks. We pray that their families may find the strength and patience to get through this extremely difficult time, and to find some solace in remembering their loved ones with the fondest memories. We appeal to every community to stand united, stay vigilant and look out for one another. Let us all repel every hate-filled narrative from whatever vile quarter it comes.”

The attacks in Paris inevitably had a particular resonance here not least because it is a city less than 300 miles away which many people know well.  For some of us in Lewisham our immediate thoughts were for our good friends in the Paris suburb of Antony that Lewisham has been twinned with for more than 50 years.

When such attacks happen we expect those responsible for security here to provide us with reassurance not that “it can’t happen here” but that they are doing everything possible to make sure it doesn’t.  We rest easier knowing they are at work but do we ever spare a thought for the pressures they must face?  Some of them are specialists working in the shadows out of necessity but others will have been going about their usual jobs with an enhanced sense of vigilance this week.

We saw extraordinary acts of bravery and personal sacrifice by ordinary citizens and security forces in Paris.  We must believe that our own city would behave the same way and we know from our past experiences it would.  But spare a thought for that individual police officer who may be confronted with a situation requiring a split second judgement – the consequences of getting that judgement wrong could be horrific for the officer personally and for others present.  We depend on them to make that judgement without hesitation and we need to do all we can to support them when they do.