There are times when the enormity of a situation and the emotions within it are so huge that it feels impossible to respond with words that are adequate. The attacks in Paris have been one such time when words have come with difficulty, especially when the attacks seem to add to the darkness of violence and hate that feels ever growing around the world. Pope Francis has referred to these atrocities as part of a “piecemeal World War III” and indeed, the world feels a very dark place today and the suffering of so many nations feels unbearable.
We do not believe as Christians that this darkness has the last word- but where is the light to be found in the midst of a darkness that feels so very dark, so very great? Fear, too, is an understandable reaction to acts of terrorism and it is arguably one of the strongest human emotions. It can overcome us, robbing us of our freedom to enjoy life. So with this in mind, it is a beautiful thing to be able to share the reactions of the loved ones of the victims of the Parisian attacks. They had every right to respond with anger, yet they have responded with words of love for their lost ones.
Particularly so is the response from Antoine Leiris, the husband of Hélène Muyal, a woman who was killed during the attacks.
Leiris wrote a post on his Facebook page which has gone viral. What he says is awe-inspiring in his refusal to hate. Here is a the full transcript translated (Source: DailyMail)
On Friday night you stole the life of an exceptional being, the love of my life, the mother of my son, but you won’t have my hatred.
I don’t know who you are and I don’t want to know – you are dead souls. If this God for which you kill indiscriminately made us in his own image, every bullet in the body of my wife will have been a wound in his heart.
So no, I don’t give you the gift of hating you. You are asking for it but responding to hatred with anger would be giving in to the same ignorance that made you what you are.
You want me to be afraid, to view my fellow countrymen with mistrust, to sacrifice my freedom for security. You have lost.
I saw her this morning. Finally, after many nights and days of waiting. She was just as beautiful as when she left on Friday night, just as beautiful as when I fell hopelessly in love over 12 years ago.
Of course I’m devastated with grief, I admit this small victory, but it will be short-lived. I know she will accompany us every day and that we will find ourselves in this paradise of free souls to which you’ll never have access.
We are two, my son and I, but we are stronger than all the armies of the world.
I don’t have any more time to devote to you, I have to join Melvil who is waking up from his nap. He is barely 17-months-old. He will eat his meals as usual, and then we are going to play as usual, and for his whole life this little boy will threaten you by being happy and free. Because no, you will not have his hatred either.
Even in the midst of what must be a devastating grief, Leiris has the grace to realize that the spiral of violence would continue if he responded with hatred. In a situation where terrorists attempted to rob people of their freedom, Leiris is a man who still has his freedom in complete integrity.
Here is a profound and powerful truth- that love creates. Violence in itself can never win, because it will only ever destroy. Violence can take away a person’s life, but as Leiris shows, violence cannot take away the reality of love. This response of a refusal to hate, a refusal to hide, a refusal to allow his son to become bitter, this response is stronger than the acts of violence committed that day.
In his book The Fellowship of the Ring, JRR Tolkien writes, “The world is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places; but still there is much that is fair, and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater.” The attacks in Paris have indeed been very dark, but the darkness cannot distinguish the light that burns brightly in those who refuse to hate or be afraid. In our own lives, if and when the threat of terrorism and violence hangs over us, remember that our faith is not a faith of timidity, but a faith that calls us to rise up and proclaim the Resurrection, to proclaim the truth that Christ trampled on death, that through His Resurrection, death is not the end of the story!
What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs. Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. (Matt 27-30)