How else can we begin? What else can be said, especially after so many things already have been? So many words, some beautiful, some ugly.
In the week since Paris was attacked Friday, people around the world have shown their sympathy and support. They’ve shared quotations of love and peace from the likes of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., tributes from grief-stricken relatives, and prayers for comfort, healing, and hope.
“Returning violence for violence multiplies violence,
adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars.
Darkness cannot drive out darkness:
only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”
– Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
People have also debated, naturally, what caused the attacks, how to respond, and how to prevent future ones. And in a desire to stay safe from Islamic terrorists, they’ve debated hotly whether to welcome people already running from them, concerned that the enemy might hide among their earlier victims.
They’ve debated whether it’s biased or wrong to sympathize with Paris while ignoring other places that had terrorist attacks last week. About 40 people had died the day before in two suicide bombings in Beirut, and 26 died Friday in a suicide bombing at a funeral in Baghdad. Likewise in January, the world sympathized with Paris over the terrorist attack against the offices of Charlie Hebdo but mostly ignored Nigeria, where Boko Haram had killed up to 2,000 people at the village of Baga. The reasons Paris got more attention in both cases are numerous and varied, and I’m not going to delve here into justifying or condemning them.
What are we to do, though? That, too, is numerous and varied, but part of it is to pray. Not just for the victims, not just for those with whom we agree or find it easier to sympathize, and not just for those in places we’ve been or want to visit. Not according to our own inclinations but according to Christ’s instructions.
Pray for comfort, healing, and hope for those grieving.
Pray for peace and safety in their lands and for wisdom and courage in their leaders. And in ours.
Pray for Paris, Beirut, Baghdad, Nigeria, and all the other places where people hate and make others grieve, where the destroyers seek to divide everyone and trick us into hating them back. Pray that we will all be smarter than that.
Pray for each of us to hear and follow God’s call to love Him, our neighbors, and even our enemies. Pray for the strength, courage, and patience to do that.
Pray that those enemies will listen to Him and not to some hateful misrepresentation of Him. Pray that they will realize how far they are from Him and how much farther these actions and words take them.
Pray for the kingdom of God, for His sovereignty in our hearts, for a world that would therefore need none of the other prayers.
Our Father, who is in Heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come, your will be done,
on Earth as it is in Heaven.
Give us today what we need today,
and forgive us our sins,
as we forgive those who have sinned against us.
Lead us away from temptation
and deliver us from evil.
For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory
forever and ever.
Ed. note: After this piece was finished and scheduled, NBC News reported that Boko Haram had struck again Wednesday in two cities, Kano and Yola (about 400 miles apart), with bombs killing 49 people.