Antoine Leiris’s immensely powerful open letter to the jihadists who murdered and maimed so many in Paris on 13th November, moved the hearts of people across the world.
Antoine’s wife Hélène, the mother of their 17-month-old son, Melvil, was murdered in the Bataclan concert hall.
“If the God for whom you kill so blindly made us in his image, each bullet in my wife’s body would have been a wound in his heart,” he says, but the power of the letter is the refusal to be drawn into hatred and fear; the refusal ‘to cast a mistrustful eye on my fellow citizens, to sacrifice my freedom for security’.
The letter ends talking of baby Melvil, ‘every day of his life, this little boy will insult you with his happiness and freedom. Because you don’t have his hatred either’.
A Church member rather vociferously insists that all the world’s problems stem from religion, rather odd from a professed Christian! I understand the anger, but I don’t think it’s true. Atheist states are no less violent or unjust than those owning a religion. But those who seek the appearance of authority, find it easy to adopt a religious façade.
The vast majority of Muslims do not agree that jihadists represent Islam and Muslims are the most numerous victims of jihadists.
Throughout human history, men of violence have used the cloak of religion to justify their violence, Christianity as often as not, but violence is human, not divine.
I believe that God made us in his image and that each bullet in Hélène Muyal-Leiris’s body, and each bullet in every other body, is a wound in the heart of God – no matter how we name God. I see that most clearly in Jesus Christ nailed to a cross, a mocking crown of thorns pushed on his head. I trust in love that casts out fear and in life that will not be extinguished, even by death. Of course, the threat of terrorism alters our lives – there has to be vigilance to maximise safety. It may be necessary to kill in order to safeguard the common good of humanity. But vengeance, fearful suspicion of those around us, hiding behind barriers and locked doors, sacrificing freedom for security – these I do not accept.
As Antoine Leiris shows so eloquently, to be controlled by fear and energised by hatred is to surrender to the terrorists.