Nicola Vincent-Abnett

Nicola Vincent-Abnett
"Savant" for Solaris, Wild's End, Further Associates of Sherlock Holms, more Wild's End

Saturday 25 May 2013

Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter Here

I was at the airport on Thursday, rooting around in the newsagent’s for newspapers and magazines to wile away the couple of hours I would have to spend in the sky to get me to Sweden. The husband and I had been invited to Gothenburg, him to open a big SF book shop and me to sign some books and sit on a panel or two.

It was the day after the hate crime in Woolwich that I cited in Thursday’s blog, There is Nothing to Say.

I am not entirely comfortable with flying. I never was. I’m not entirely comfortable with fast cars or with tunnels either; it’s all a bit of a joke in our house. I did not want to be reminded of mindless violence and of the possibility of terrorism when I was about to get on a plane, so I didn’t buy any of the newspapers with front pages that had pictures of desperate, bloody men, holding weapons. It was too sad and too terrible.

As the husband and I left the shop with some awful selection of mindless consumerist magazines that remain untouched in their plastic sleeves, because I’m not really that person, and I can’t bear to believe that I am, I noticed a sign above the walkway ahead of me.

Airports are full of signs, often in more than one language. They direct the in-transit traveller from one  check-in to another, through various barriers and checkpoints. They herd us, toilet us, clean us up and move us on. There is little room for anything but the stop and start that is our ingress and egress through the permanently revolving door of any airport.

Except this sign gave me pause. It wasn’t moving me on. It didn’t require that I check anything in or out. It didn’t direct me to yet another check point. I didn’t require money, a ticket, a passport, or anything else.

The sign above the walkway read:


Of course we all know what this room is intended for. It is intended for those of us who are afraid of the unknown, the unlikely and the, frankly, frightening. It is intended for those of us who need more than a little reassurance, a prescription for valium, a lucky rabbit’s foot, or a kiss from a loved one. 

The multi-faith room is there for those of us who need a God to pray to for our safe passage, or for the safe passage of those we love, through the air to whatever destination we or they hope to reach.

The room  has no faith. Some of the people who use the room must, I suppose, have faith, and not all faiths, but, presumably one faith each... faith in one God, his or her own specific, individual god. In some cases that God will represent little more than desperation.

One man prays to his God for safe passage while another prayers for martyrdom, and they sit side-by-side in one room intended for all faiths, and perhaps that’s how it should be, and perhaps that’s what we all deserve.

Except that isn’t how it is, because if you’re anything like me, you’ll be sitting reading this and asking yourself who exactly uses this multi-faith room.

I’ll tell you who... In the World we live in... In the World where it’s possible for anyone to invoke a deity while igniting a bomb, no one uses a multi-faith room.

That’s OK. 

Right now, that’s pretty much exactly what we deserve.


  1. In case someone reads it that way, martyrdom is dying instead of rejecting your faith not dying to kill others. We start by taking back that word, then we take another, until all terrorism has is incoherency.

    People have been invoking the name of a God while igniting a bomb almost as long as there have been bombs; however, they are not necessarily the people that those Gods choose to attend.

    And people being afraid to use a multi-faith room is not OK. It is not what we deserve.

    Maybe the self-identified Christians who selectively ignore the commandment against killing in their calls to take vengeance deserve to feel excluded from their God.

    Maybe the Muslims who call Islam a religion of peace but also say that some acts of terror are righteous deserve the pangs of dissonance.

    But the decent people, the people who feel the immanence of the Divine and hold out a hand in awe do not deserve that.

    I sense my Gods with me in all rooms so do not need a Multi-faith Room, but will stand with those who do.