Friday, November 20, 2015

the Paris attacks and spiritual danger

This reflection was delivered in the context of an ecumenical service of Evening Prayer  that took place on the evening of November 18th to show the prayerful support of the people of the parish of Castlecomer for the people of Paris.

We have gathered here this evening to show our solidarity with the people of Paris in the wake of the dreadful attacks they have suffered in recent days. They are our neighbours and it is natural that we should wish to support them in any way we can during such dark and difficult days, particularly by praying for the victims and their families and for the peace and comfort of all who are frightened by what took place on their very doorsteps. More, our prayers are something they are entitled to expect from us; and it is something that we, as the people of God, are obliged to offer. For if we will not pray, then who will; and if we will not pray at a time like this, then when will we ever?

Prayers are needed for another reason also. That is because there is a spiritual dimension in this crisis we face in the world today – and these attacks are a part of that crisis. Shortly after the shocking events in Paris people began to put forward all kinds of reasons for what could have caused the killers to behave in such a terrible way. Many pointed the finger of blame to the West. 'It is our fault,' they essentially said; 'we have interfered in the affairs of the Middle-East for generations. Such attacks are the result.'

I will not deny that the West does have much moral culpability for the way things are in the Middle-East today. But this is not what brought Islamic State to Paris. If it was, they would have no reason to treat with such barbaric cruelty the people of their own religion in the lands they control. And only today they murdered two of their captives, a Norwegian and a Chinese man, after having sought a massive cash ransom for their release. Norway and China have no history of interfering in that region.

No, self-blaming views displays a terrible misunderstanding of what it is we are dealing with here, which is that Islamic State is driven by a burning passion for the total annihilation of all that is not in full conformity with their own particular world-view. This means not only their own brand of Islam in the countries in their immediate vicinity, but globally. And this requires the complete destruction of Western Civilisation and our way of life.

What we are dealing with here, therefore, is evil – nothing less can explain the crucifixions, the beheadings, the kidnapping and enslavement of young girls and women for sexual purposes. And evil is a spiritual problem.

Therefore, when we pray, we must pray for other things as well as those I have already mentioned. We must pray for the conversion of heart of all those who commit such wicked acts. We must pray for the young men and women living in the West who are tempted by what Militant Islam offers. Who knows why it is they are tempted; it is enough to know that it is the nature of evil to tempt us. But we must ask God's protection on these young people that that may be able to fight off these temptations. We must do this for the sake of their souls as well as the lives and safety of all those they now threaten or may put at risk in the future.

And we must pray for all within our borders who will not pray. I mean by this those who do not usually pray. At times like this many will light candles, many will say prayers, many will even go to churches to hear Masses or take part in other services who do not usually enter into God's house. But as the rawness of the tragedy lessens, so does their impulse to draw near to God. But the spiritual danger we face does not lessen, it only grows stronger. And a spiritual battle needs a solid spiritual support beneath it at all times or that battle will be lost. So we must pray that all those under attack will be drawn back to God, to prayer, to faith; and that those who continue to practice their faith will be drawn ever deeper into it.

So this night we pray for the people of Paris, but we also pray for all the world. We pray that this terrible evil will be taken from us, so that all people may know peace. Amen.