The deadly terrorist attacks in Paris last Friday, Nov. 13, stunned the civilized world and left most of us wondering what is next? Just like 9/11 and so many other acts of terrorism, there is no logic to the mass killing of innocent men, women and children in France.
We as Catholics echo the words of our holy father, Pope Francis, who condemned the killings. “Such barbarity leaves us dismayed, and we ask ourselves how the human heart can plan and carry out such horrible events,” he said Nov. 15.
The Islamic extremist group ISIS claimed responsibility for the attacks, but Pope Francis insisted that using God’s name to justify killing is blasphemy.
The Bible teaches us that we are made in God’s image and likeness (another reason why terrorism is an act of blasphemy). This gives us hope and perhaps helps us to unite as a human family in the face of tragedy.
Turning to a higher power has been a common response to suffering throughout human history. Prayer not only consoles our hearts, it can offer guidance and wisdom as we turn our sorrows over to God.
The connected electronic world of social media gives us proof that people still rely on prayer, even though many sending out the messages are not traditional church-goers.
According to the social media network, Instagram, in the 24 hours following the Paris attacks, more than 70 million people used Instagram to share their support and prayers. Of the top 10 hashtags used with messages and photos, four included a religious theme. These included:
While prayer unites us in support of the victims and for peace, we still have a long way to go. Some find the attacks as an opportunity to push their own agenda, whether it be political, ideological or just ignorance. Here are a few examples.
A cartoonist for Charlie Hebdo, a French satirical newspaper, used Instagram to attack religion. Joann Sfar wrote: “Friends from the whole world, thank you for #PrayforParis, but we don’t need more religion!” The message conveyed is that religion is somehow to blame for the attack on Paris.
Closer to home, Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke used Twitter to rally his political friends around the Paris attack. “If GOP plays this politically smart they can end any chance the Dems win the WH in 2016. War is politics carried on by other means,” wrote the sheriff. Promoting political gain out of this tragedy is unfitting of any politician, much less a county sheriff.
Even closer to home, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers recounted an incident that he found offensive. After the Packers’ loss to the Detroit Lions, he told reporters that a fan in the stands ruined a moment of silence, offered before the game in honor of the Paris victims. The fan used disparaging remarks, apparently aimed at Muslims.
“I must admit I was very disappointed with whoever the fan was who made a comment I thought was really inappropriate during the moment of silence,” said Rodgers. “It’s that kind of prejudicial ideology that I think puts us in the position that we’re in today as a world.”
Human tragedy can unite us, but it can also unleash immoral behavior. This brings us back to prayer. When we turn to God in prayer first, our emotional reactions can be quelled by the grace found in seeking God’s guidance. Let us continue to pray for the victims in Paris, as well as so many others around the world harmed by terrorism.