[Episcopal News Service] Bishop Pierre Whalon of the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe has issued the following statement in the aftermath of the Nov. 13 terrorist attacks in Paris.
November 14, 2015
How can we pray this prayer of all prayers, here in Paris, the day after?
O God, the Father of all, whose Son commanded us to love our enemies: Lead them and us from prejudice to truth: deliver them and us from hatred, cruelty, and revenge; and in your good time enable us all to stand reconciled before you, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (Book of Common Prayer, p. 818.)
Yes, Jesus did command us: “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” “Love your enemies and do good to those who hate you.” (Matt. 5:44; Luke 6:27). Really? Yesterday several terrorists killed at least 128 people in 6 separate but coordinated attacks here in Paris. According to the Islamic State group, Da’ech, this was planned in advance and ordered from their base in Syria, in retaliation for the French involvement there.
The French president, François Hollande, has promised to reply in kind: “We will be merciless.” Meanwhile, hundreds of families are mourning their dead and wounded, attacked simply for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. The Charlie Hebdo and Hypercacher attacks in January were targeted specifically; these six attacks were against “targets of opportunity,” as the military says.
“Love your enemies and do good to those who hate you.” Doesn’t that just “enable” them?
Here is where our baptismal promise to “follow and obey Jesus as Lord” cuts into our lives. We should do good to those who hate us, because Jesus has told us to. So how can we?
First, I think we need to see that loving the enemy who can do such things to us is not just vapid idealism. The whole point of the Christian story is summed up thus: “While we were yet his enemies, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5: 6-10) In other words, God shows love for us precisely by putting off the divine power that we crave. The day after this heinous attack, we may wish for God to come down and wipe out our enemies. Instead, Christ on the cross, completely powerless at the last, shows us that it is only love that can overcome hatred, evil and even death.
Jesus asks us to follow his way, as love is the only power in this world that can literally and figuratively save us. He certainly did not “enable” his enemies. In the short term, we need the police and the military, and we should be grateful that Parisians have such courageous and professional forces. They and the firefighters and emergency medical teams need our prayers and deserve our support. Not to mention the wounded and dead, and their families and friends.
But the question of their assassins concerns not only us here and now, but the whole human race. What word do we have for these people? Our first instincts are to demonize them. . . to label them as “Islamic fundamentalists” or some such, and cheer as the Rafale bombers carry out a massive campaign in retaliation. But this is too simple. It is not what Jesus would have us do. What he wants is harder.
When we baptize or confirm people, Episcopalians always repeat the promise to “strive for justice and peace among all people”… We need therefore to chart a way to make peace. Peace, not appeasement or total war. In order to be able to do that, we first need to turn back to Jesus and ask for help.
O God, the Father of all, whose Son commanded us to love our enemies: Lead them and us from prejudice to truth: deliver them and us from hatred, cruelty, and revenge; and in your good time enable us all to stand reconciled before you, through Jesus Christ our Lord.
On Nov. 17, the Rt. Rev. Pierre Whalon will host a meeting of the L’Union mondiale des experts de l’Islam pour la paix et contre la violence (World Union of Experts of Islam for Peace and against Violence). The meeting is part of the project Islam et Vivre ensemble, a schedule of meetings and events tied to the International Day of Tolerance (Nov. 16). From Nov. 10-20, a delegation of Imams from the Union Mondiale are making their voices heard in Paris and in Brussels. In addition to the Imams’ presentations to be made at the Nov. 17 meeting, to be held at the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity, Paris, scheduled events include participation in various conferences and high-level meetings at the European Parliament, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (France), the Assemblée Nationale and the Senate (France) and UNESCO.
About World Union of Experts for Peace and against Violence
The organization, created in June 2015, is a group of 9 renown Imams from eight countries and three continents (Australia, France, Serbia, Lebanon, Spain, Palestine, the United States, and Egypt). In light of the atrocities committed by extremists in the name of Islam, the organization exists to spread a message of peace between people and religions through books, preaching, newspapers, media, internet; to promote the reform of traditions and heritage, both oral and written.
Meetings for the World Union were organized with support from the Franco-Egyptian Organization for Human Rights. OFEDH is a French-based organization that promotes peaceful co-existence between religions and respect for human rights. OFEDH organizes meetings, seminars, conferences and rallies, mainly in Paris and Cairo.