Marie Fatayi-Williams (England)

“At first I didn’t want to look at the face of Hasib Hussain, but eventually I did look... and what I saw was just a young man.”

Photography by Brian Moody

When Marie Fatayi-Williams’ only son, Anthony, was killed on the No 30 bus in London on 7 July 2005, her call for an end to violence made headlines across the world. She has since set up an international foundation in Anthony’s honour to work for and promote peace and conflict resolution. A devout Catholic, she lives both in London and Lagos, Nigeria. Her husband is Muslim and they also have two daughters.

When I gave that speech just five days after Anthony was killed, I couldn’t self-consciously control what was coming out of my mouth. All I knew was that God Almighty was guiding me as well as Anthony’s spirit. I needed to reach out to my son and plead with those who had him to send him back to me. But, somewhere deep in my subconscious, I did have an uneasy feeling that perhaps he was no more, and if really this was the case then I had to appeal to those out there who had done this or who had masterminded it. I wanted to say to them, can’t you see how deeply hurt I am? Can’t you see what you’ve done to me and all those like me? What good or cause has been served? If I could succeed in turning around one potential suicide bomber to killing the innocent in the unlikely hope and warped belief of serving God, then I would have achieved something and Anthony’s death would not be in vain. That was, and still is, my aim.

People are perhaps surprised that I hold no real hatred. Perhaps I’m trying to psyche myself not to feel like this, but if so it’s because I know that no amount of hatred will bring Anthony back. The bomber is dead and God Almighty will judge him. Actually I only feel deep sorrow for those who did this and for those who actively seek out blank minds on which to imprint negativity and hatred. At first I didn’t want to look at the face of Hasib Hussain, but eventually I did look… and what I saw was just a young man. I wonder sometimes if he meant to blow up the bus, or if at some point he chickened out? If so, it means there is hope. I am confident that if he had been asked what cause he was ready to die for, he would not have been able to clearly articulate or justify such extreme action.

What inspiration can senseless slaughter provide? We need to ask the question why. Only then will we be able to start the dialogue and start to create peace. The love I may have for these people is similar to the love that the late John Paul II had for his potential assassin – Mohammed Ali Agca correctional love. If I were to meet anyone like the bombers, I’d say, please can we talk? I am searching for a reason. If you don’t know what makes the other person tick, how can you start to heal? Islam doesn’t preach, “Kill, and God will bless you”, and those who say it does are distorting the word of the Holy Koran. But, even if people claim this, then rather than just condemning them, we should be asking where is this thinking coming from?

I never ever believed that I would be a victim of terrorism. Anthony was a peace loving young man, who only ever had love in his heart. He was never in support of war in any form. This is why I have set up a foundation in his name. I can’t think of any other way to heal my heart and help others in the same position. You need to work hard to achieve peace. It doesn’t just come on a platter of good. You cannot give what you don’t have. Together we’ve got to make, have and give peace out.

Anthony was my first and only son, the head of my family after his father. He was supposed to be my stay in old age. So now the only way I can carry on and make my two daughters know that life doesn’t end with death is to show that you cannot deliver peace by terrorism. If I could stop just one potential bomber or suicide bomber committing a catastrophe because he felt sorry for the pain inflicted on Anthony’s mum, realising the senselessness of killing innocents victims, I would bless him forever and Anthony’s death would not have been in vain.