Countering terrorism through faith
Fr Mario Attard OFM Cap
The horrible terrorist attacks carried out in diverse parts of Paris, on November 13, generated terror and fear. The seven coordinated attacks in Paris, ruthlessly executed by terrorists, left 130 people dead, 89 of whom perished in the Bataclan while attending a musical concert, 352 injured, 99 of them critically injured.
The Catholic Church’s immediate reaction to this bloodiest scene of carnage and bloodshed was strong and clear. Pope Francis called the attacks in Paris “a piece” of the “piecemeal Third World War”. In his telephone interview on Saturday November 14 with the Italian Bishops Conference official television network, TV 2000, the Holy Father reiterated that the attacks were “not human”. In a moving voice the Pope said: “I am close to the people of France, to the families of the victims, and I am praying for all of them. I am moved and I am saddened. I do not understand, these things hard to understand.” When the Pope was asked if this is part of the “piecemeal Third World War” he mentioned in various speeches he delivered the Holy Father simply said: “This is a pieace of it. There is no religious or human justification for it”.
In his Angelus appeal the Pope showed once more the complete condemnation of the Church to such abominable crimes as well as her maternal closeness and solicitude to the victims and their loved ones through prayer.
“Dear brothers and sisters, I want to express my profound sorrow over the terrorist attacks that bloodied France on Friday night, resulting in numerous victims. To the president of the Republic of France and all of its citizens, I express my deepest sorrow. I feel particularly close to the families of those who lost their lives and the wounded. Such barbarity leaves us stunned and makes us question how the heart of man could come up with and carry out such horrific acts, which have shattered not only France, but the whole world. In the face of such intolerable acts, we cannot cease condemning this unspeakable attack on the dignity of the human person. I want to vigorously reaffirm that the path of violence and hate does not resolve the problemsof humanity. And that to use the name of God to justify this path is blasphemy. I invite you to join in my prayer: let us entrust the defenseless victims of this tragedy to the mercy of God. Virgin Mary, Mother of mercy, plant in the hearts of all thoughts ofwisdom and resolutions of peace. We ask her to protect us and to watch over the beloved French nation, the eldest daughter of the Church, all of Europe and the whole world”.
On November 18, during his weekly general audience, wherein the Holy Father was explaining the meaning of the Holy Door that will be opened in Saint Peter’s Basilica on December 8, he said:
“There are places in the world where the doors are not locked, they still exist; but there are so many where armour-plated doors have become normal. We must not yield to the idea of having to apply this system to our whole life, to the life of the family, of the city, of the society, and even less so to the life of the Church. It would be terrible! An inhospitable Church, just as a family shut-in on itself, mortifies the Gospel and hardens the world. No armour-plated doors in the Church, none! Everything open!”
Interreligious dialogue is the key to counter terrorism. In his address to President Erdogan and Turkish political leaders Pope Francis said:
“Interreligious and intercultural dialogue can make an important contribution to attaining this lofty and urgent goal, so that there will be an end to all forms of fundamentalism and terrorism which gravely demean the dignity of every man and woman and exploit religion. Fanaticism and fundamentalism, as well as irrational fears which foster misunderstanding and discrimination, need to be countered by the solidarity of all believers”.
In what way can religions promote respect for human life and religious freedom? How can religions champion human beings free right to worship according to the moral teachings of their religions or the dictates of their conscience? Is this not a tenable way of countering terrorism through faith?