IF WE fix our hearts on doing what is right, we can still today master the effects of evil. We must condemn violence not just because it strikes us with shock and horror on one particular day. Every single act of violence has within it the seeds of spreading and destroying. If we fix our hearts on doing what is right, we can still master the effects of evil today and in the future.
More than three million people gathered across France last week to stage defiant marches in a moving tribute to the 17 people killed in terror attacks, with the majority flocking to the capital, where cartoonists and passers-by were murdered by Islamic fanatics, an action that has brought both condemnation and fear across the globe.
Millions of people also took to social media to express their anger and disgust at the actions of those who attacked the office of Charlie Hebdo and their sympathy for the victims. Black badges with the slogan ‘Je Suis Charlie’ (I am Charlie) in the magazine’s font have been posted by people wanting to demonstrate solidarity with the magazine.
On Twitter, British prime minister David Cameron wrote: “The murders in Paris are sickening. We stand with the French people in the fight against terror and defending the freedom of the press.”
French president Francois Hollande tweeted : “Terrorist attack on #CharlieHebdo is barbaric. We stand w people of Paris to defend free speech and values of democracy and common humanity.”
Others reflected on the part played by religion in the attack, with comedian David Walliams writing: “Executing unarmed cartoonists can never be the will of any God.”
Pope Francis called upon religious communities to condemn terrorism, especially Muslim leaders. “I express my hope that religious, political and intellectual leaders, especially those of the Muslim community, will condemn all fundamentalist and extremist interpretations of religion which attempt to justify such acts of violence.” The pope added that extremist mentalities bring with them terror and darkness. He said: “A number of areas in our world, beginning with nearby Ukraine, which has become a dramatic theatre of combat. It is my hope that through dialogue the efforts presently being made to end the hostilities will be consolidated, and that the parties involved will embark as quickly as possible, in a renewed spirit of respect for international law, upon the path of mutual trust and fraternal reconciliation, with the aim of bringing an end to the present crisis.”
Pope Francis also decried the “chilling” fundamentalist terrorism in Syria and Iraq. “This phenomenon is a consequence of the throwaway culture being applied to God. Religious fundamentalism, even before it eliminates human beings by perpetrating horrendous killings, eliminates God himself, turning him into a mere ideological pretext. In the face of such unjust aggression, which also strikes Christians and other ethnic and religious groups in the region – the Yazidis, for example – a unanimous response is needed, one which, within the framework of international law, can end the spread of acts of violence, restore harmony and heal the deep wounds which the ongoing conflicts have caused.”
May the voice of peace challenge all who bring terror and fear to innocent lives at this time.