Thursday, November 19, 2015

Reflections on the recent events in Paris

Upper Division Convocation
The Rev. Peter M. Carey
Berkeley Preparatory School, Tampa, Florida
19 November 2015

Let us pray

Grant, O God, that your holy and life-giving Spirit may so move every human heart, that barriers which divide us may crumble, suspicions disappear, and hatreds cease; that our divisions being healed, we may live in justice and peace. Amen.

We have been reminded all too often in recent times of the ways that religion can be bent and perverted to evil uses. 

And so, it is very important to remember what former president, George Bush stated just six days after 9-11 when he spoke at the Islamic Center in Washington, DC:

“The face of terror is not the true faith of Islam.  That’s not what Islam is all about.  Islam is peace.  These terrorists represent evil and war.  When we think of Islam we think of a faith that brings comfort to a billion people around the world.  Billions of people find comfort and solace and peace.  And that’s made brothers and sisters out of every race – out of every race.  (America counts millions of Muslims amongst our citizens, and Muslims make an incredibly valuable contribution to our country.  Muslims are doctors, lawyers, law professors, members of the military, entrepeneurs, shopkeepers, moms and dads.  And they need to be treated with respect.)  In our anger and emotion, our fellow Americans must treat each other with respect.”

These are helpful words to remember as we continue to learn more about these terrible attacks, and consider the best way to counter the despicable acts by these fringe groups.  Like many of you, France is close to my heart.  My parents visit France each year, and were just recently there this Fall.  I myself love France and have spent time right where some of these attacks occurred.

Just as Paris was reeling, I received word from my friend and former headmaster Ham Clark (the cousin of two Berkeley students) who is now head of a school in Beirut that his school community is also reeling from multiple bombings nearby. 

And so, like you perhaps, I am feeling many emotions: anger, fear, sadness, helplessness … so, how might we respond.  I would pray that we respond with the desire to learn as much as we can about these events, while also holding true to the “better angels of our natures.”

One Parisian who is living in the US had this quite profound response:

"It is so easy to hate. It is so much harder to quell and extinguish hatred, especially at moments like this. But, if we are to be victorious in this struggle, we must begin by owning our own selves and exercising self-control. We must not allow ISIS to plant their evil banner in our hearts and souls...We have to unite to fight this evil and mourn the loss of these young lives, not just in Paris but in Egypt, in Lebanon, in India, to name a few places." ~Christele Furey

As our own French student, Charly Pollet shared the other day:

“We fight terrorism with love, compassion, and joy (joie de vivre)  by cherishing our life, being thankful for each and everyday.  Remember the French community around the world and here at Berkeley as well as the victims of terrorism everywhere.  “Live as if you were to die tomorrow, learn as if you were to live forever”- Gandhi

One way that Parisians are standing up to terror is by the simple, and yet profound, act of returning to their beloved cafes – the very places which were the sites of some of these violent acts.  And so, as I again ask us to pray, I lift my coffee cup to those Parisians, those citizens of Beirut, of Egypt, of India, and elsewhere who are standing up to this evil. 


Let us pray


Almighty God.  Broaden our minds and hearts so that we may find solutions to terrible situations while also acting out of compassion and loving kindness.  Help us to seek the good, while we also root out evil.  Help us to see recognize the interconnectedness of our ever shrinking world and to see one another as fellow brothers and sisters.  Amen.


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