Paris, France: November 13, 2015

The French flag

I sat down at my computer this morning to write a post, but my fingers were paralyzed over the keyboard. The attacks in Paris yesterday, which left 129 dead and hundreds more injured, had left me numb. They were “soft targets” – a concert venue, cafés, bars, restaurants, a sports stadium. The victims were civilians – teens and twenty-somethings out for a rock concert. Working people kicking back with friends over a drink and a meal, ready to welcome the week-end. Families running errands at the mall.

The sick, cowardly hatred behind these co-ordinated terrorist attacks set off such shock-waves of anger and sadness that paralysis is, I suspect, the outward face of this day for many. There’s a sense of deflating hope. Deflating momentum. If it can all be taken away with one gullible sucker of a suicide bomber, what’s the point, right?

But that’s just the way the dark side wants us to feel. And I don’t want the dark side to win.

Let sadness be turned to love. It is unthinkable how many people in Paris today are coping with the devastating loss of daughters and sons and sweet-hearts and parents and siblings and friends and colleagues. It is true that not one of us is guaranteed another day with our loved ones. Make sure they know they are loved.

Let fear be turned to spiritual peace. There was nothing the victims could have done to protect themselves. The randomness of the assault made it inescapable. It is true that the possibility of death, though highly unlikely for most of us on any given day, is nevertheless ever-present. Make your peace with it.

Let hatred be turned to wisdom. I can easily imagine the backlash against Muslims that might happen in Paris in the days ahead. Even against those who have spoken out in horrified disgust against yesterday’s brutality and who would have given their lives to save the victims if they could have. It is true that there are twisted people who are capable of enormous evil in our midst – of all backgrounds and belief systems – who portray themselves convincingly as harmless. Avoid simplistic, broad-brush scapegoating. Get humble and real about your own dark side, and allow a vigilant awareness to develop.

Let paralysis be turned to purpose. I’m sure there are many in Paris who weren’t able to get up out of bed to face the day today. In the silence after the gunfire and bomb explosions, there are insidious whisperings of futility. How many dreams for the future were dashed in a matter of hours yesterday? How much accomplishment was blasted away in a few moments? It is true that no outcome for any effort is guaranteed. So be motivated by what is greater than the outcome. Be motivated by the underlying principles of your goals. They are impervious to criminal insanity. They are eternal.

Let cynicism be turned to outreach. There is a highly effective recruitment machine at work – with the specific target of disaffected young men in need of validation, a sense of significance, and a father figure. The minds behind this machine tap into screaming needs of seekers with a promise to offer “the answer”. Purpose. Power. Paradise. As far as we know, eight such seekers gave their lives to the cause of Friday’s destruction in Paris. It is true that there are daunting, seemingly limitless social needs in our world. And arguably, their most disturbing expression is in the form of violence at the hands of brain-washed, manipulated young men. As parents, grand-parents, aunts, uncles, community members and leaders – let’s face these desperate needs head-on and work constructively towards their fulfillment.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that.”

Love and healing, comfort and strength to the people of France. Que Dieu soit avec vous dans votre détresse.

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24 CommentsLeave a comment

  • Well said, Prudence. “Let hatred be turned to peace”, yes! There is no doubt that these coordinated actions are intended to encourage fear and hatred. A wise response, indeed, is needed.

    • Thank you, Janeen. I’m sure that this tragedy hit hard for you, with all of your precious little ones. We all need to respond with wisdom so that our children will inherit a world that allows them to thrive.

  • So beautiful!! I think amongst sadness it turns a lot of people jaded about the world. “the world is going to shit.” “people suck.” or whatever it may be, but I think if you looked at the statistics this still is the safest time in human history. But we are bombarded with noise and negativity. Now, please don’t get me wrong, I’m devastated by what happened and cannot imagine with friends and family, and that city (as well as others like Lebanon who have also had similar fates lately) are going through, but it’s easy to turn dark against the world, when life still is truly precious and MOST people are good. I don’t think we can’t try to find some resolve (politically or otherwise), but on a base, individual level, I want to think loving peaceful thoughts towards mankind and life.

    • If you can respond to this and other violent attacks with “loving peaceful thoughts towards mankind and life,” then you have the best response possible. Recognizing the darkness behind such carnage can, as you say, make people “turn dark against the world.” And more darkness is definitely not what we need. But such recognition can also heighten our awareness of the great value of all that is good – which is the case with you. I hope that many join you in that response, Tonya.

    • I completely understand your shock, Brian. But I think that brain-washing can go a long way to making people do things that make absolutely no sense.

    • It IS heart-wrenching, Melanie. There’s a balance between not being in denial of such events and not being consumed by them. It’s a point of strength from which to recognize evil while affirming everything in our lives that stands in contrast to it.

  • Thank you for this post Ruth. I spent a lovely week in Paris in September. My Airbnb flat was close to Place de la Republique (our metro stop) which is near to some of the attack sites. And I have wonderful memories of spending a week in Paris with you, my friend, in our University years in the 80’s. It is the most beautiful, magical city in the world. I have been feeling physically sick and tearful seeing the images of the Friday’s events. Your post has calmed me down and given me hope. Thank you. xox

    • Wow, Laurie! What a lovely response. I think these events hit all the harder for those who have a connection to the place – and for you, it is such a recent connection. Hugs to you as you process this tragedy. I’m glad you are feeling more calm and more hope.

  • Wonderful post, my friend. Well said. We let our kids watch the reports on this – the first world tragedy we’ve really let them sit down and watch long-term, and of course they were stunned. Staying soft in our hearts toward God is key to dealing with this senseless type of crime. God bless you, Paris, and all the world.

    • I think you were wise to allow your children to watch the newscasts about the attacks. I’m sure you played the role of answering questions and giving context. It can be a challenge to stay “soft in our hearts” when the natural reaction is rage – but you are right.

    • With individual people who go through trauma, I find that they emerge either better or bitter. I think the same is true of societies. I hope that as a society, France – and her allies – will become better through this trauma. Thank you, Laura Beth.

    • Thank you, Luke. I’m glad these words had a positive impact on the start to your day. Every day is certainly precious.

    • The world could use your prayers, Jayson. There is so much fear and confusion surrounding ISIL. Many equate it with Islam, but most Muslims hate ISIL. It is certainly causing the kind of division and alienation that serve its purposes.

  • Beautifully put. Now could you make the politicians here listen to reason? What drives me crazy is how tragedy drives widespread hate. A bombing in Paris, while tragic, shouldn’t make people here persecute Muslims or turn away Syrian refugees. Grrrrr

    • I completely understand the fear that drives such reactions. They do, however, play right into the hands of the terrorists. ISIL/ISIS isn’t Islam. And alienating Muslims helps to feed the recruiting machines of terrorists. It is really hard to know how to respond with wisdom, but it won’t be on a foundation of fear.

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