Queen reacts to disasters, bombings

The Queen delivered a sombre Christmas address yesterday, remembering those who lost loved ones in last year's deadly Asian tsunami and those whose security was shaken after suicide bombers struck London on July 7. The annual message, pre-recorded in Buckingham Palace Chapel this year, is one of the few occasions in the year when the Queen speaks publicly about her views. It is broadcast around the country and the Commonwealth of Britain's former colonies.

"The day after my last Christmas message was broadcast, the world experienced one of the worst natural disasters ever recorded," she said, referring to the tsunami that crashed into coastlines from Asia to Africa one year ago, killing about 216,000 people. The tsunami was followed by vicious hurricanes across the Caribbean, the devastation of New Orleans and pounding earthquakes in Pakistan and India. "As if these disasters were not bad enough, I have sometimes thought that humanity seemed to have turned on itself, with wars, civil disturbances and acts of brutal terrorism," she said. Suicide bombers targeted London's transit system in July, killing 56 people, including themselves on July 7. The bombings were followed by botched attacks two weeks later.

Terrorists also struck Jordan and Indonesia. Scores have died in suicide attacks in Iraq. Praising relief and emergency workers of all faiths, the Queen said 2005's string of tragedies offered opportunities for people of all faiths to unite and work together. "This last year has reminded us that this world is not always an easy or a safe place to live in, but it is the only place we have," she said.

"I believe also that it has shown us all how our faith, whatever our religion, can inspire us to work together in friendship and peace for the sake of our own and future generations." The monarch's Christmas address is a tradition that began with her grandfather, King George V, who delivered the first in 1932.

The Queen delivered her first Christmas speech on the radio in 1952, when she took the throne following the death of her father, King George VI. The broadcast was first fully televised in 1957. Following tradition, the Royal Family gathered at the Sandringham estate in eastern England with a new addition at the annual festivities -- Prince Charles' wife, Camilla. As they have for many years, the Queen and many of her relatives attended a church service near the royal residence, reports the AP. I.L.

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