Today we share three minutes of silence. At 12.00 in Britain. At 11.00 in Europe. We will share a common moment of respect, of memory, of reflection.
This is a disaster unlike others. Vast in scale, an enormous human catastrophe. Television, the internet and world travel bring it very close to us. For many of us, friends lost their lives, or saved them but lost friends and colleagues.
The enormous public move to donate to disaster relief reflects well on us. The undignified spectacle of governments clambering over each other to prove that they led the way in relief does not.
But even our public compassion raises questions. Why do we not respond in this way to the AIDS disaster in Africa? Why do we not respond in this way to civil war in Sudan, or in Congo? Why — as a nation — are we promoting heartless policies towards asylum seekers, presuming them guilty unless they can prove that they are innocent?
In those three minutes, we will be brought face to face with ourselves.