The shock of the terrorist attack in the centre of Paris has reverberated across the Western world. We grieve at sudden death of innocent people; we are angry at those who brought violence and bloodshed into the midst of our ordinary lives; we suddenly feel horribly vulnerable to the same sort of chaos we have seen enacted across the Middle East—it is one thing to read reports this week from Beirut (40 dead) and Baghdad (26 dead), which we add to the litany of distant tragedies, such as Nigeria (219 school girls kidnapped a year ago) and Kenya (147 students killed in April), but men with suicide vests on European streets suddenly brings it all close to home.
How do we respond?
To begin with, we grieve for those who have been brutally killed in the midst of everyday life. But let us not allow fear to determine our response; nor allow hatred or vengeance to take precedence in our hearts. The goal of terrorism is to create terror, and a response that leads to more violence. Fear can lead to viewing every Muslim as a potential terrorist, creating suspicion and division within our communities. Of more concern is that it can lead some to take retaliation into their own hands.
Then, let us take a practical step, and reach out to our Muslim neighbours. It should be able to go without saying that the vast majority of Muslims also reject these terrorists; all our Muslim friends are as shocked by these events as we are. Many will feel vulnerable to blame and possible reprisal. We suggest that over the next few days Christians go out of their way to contact any Muslims living nearby and affirm that we stand with them against this violence, indeed that we value them as friends and fellow citizens.
We may also be a voice for refugees fleeing Daesh. There are already voices turning against refugees and blaming their presence for this attack. We should, rather, now be able better to understand what these people are fleeing. They have suffered such attacks on a daily basis. We can lift our voices to our elected representatives to call on the government to do more than has thus far been promised, to provide a true refuge for those who suffered much violence.
What we should not do is allow fear to guide our reactions. Bear in mind the teaching of Scripture: ‘Perfect love casts out fear’.
– Phil Rawlings and Dwight Swanson, Directors, MCSCI