Long before this most recent atrocity perpetrated by Islamic extremists in France, the Catholic Church has been calling for an end to violence.
It’s easy to condemn the mindless killing that occurred in Paris; easy to be repulsed by the disregard for life shown both in the French capital and in Nigeria, where, on the same day as the attacks in France, another fanatical group — Boko Haram — was laying waste to lives and villages, killing hundreds in the name of religion, or political power, or Lord knows what.
What’s not so easy is to find an explanation for why this is happening.
Violence it seems, is having its way with the world. The earth appears to be wrapped in the warped and often discredited notion that “might makes right.”
Might without moral guidance represents nothing more than the rule of bullies the world over. We learn early in life — usually in a school yard during recess — that there is always someone bigger, stronger, meaner who wants to inflict their desires, their will, on the weaker, smaller or more timid. Sometimes their commitment to violence gives truth to James Russell Lowell’s oft-quoted notion that “right is forever on the scaffold; wrong forever on the throne.”
People of faith know better, of course. The people of the church, under the guidance of Pope Francis, are speaking out against the evils of violence, against the imparting of brute force on the weaker or unwilling.
Just before the end of the year in an address presented during his weekly audience, Pope Francis noted that “it is the complete disregard for God, not his glorification, that leads to violence in the world.”
No matter how often the Islamic extremists shout — hand-in-hand with a violent act — “Allahu akbar,” (God is great), no matter how often the bigots of extremism in the U.S. attack blacks or gays or anyone else who isn’t like them and say they are doing so in the name of God, the pope knows — and the rest of us should know — that these profane pronouncements aren’t true.
People of faith, the pope said, particularly Christians and Muslims, must work together for peace, and governments must guarantee full religious freedom for their citizens and religious communities, the pope said in a story reported by the Catholic News Service (CNS).
Early last month, Catholic, Anglican and Muslim leaders (both Sunni and Shiite) held a “Christian-Muslim Summit” in Rome.
Together they vowed to work against what they called the “ugly and hideous” distortions of religion being used to justify violence.
“Enough is enough,” said Episcopal Bishop John Bryson Chane of Washington, D.C. “We are brothers in Abraham; we speak different languages; we live in different parts of the world.” But Christianity and Islam both teach that “humanity is one family,” he told the summit.
According to a CNS story about the gathering, Bishop Chane said religious leaders have an obligation to resist attempts “to divide brothers and sisters with violence.” And Pope Francis, who spoke to the summit on Dec. 3, noted that such personal visits “make our brotherhood stronger.” He thanked those gathered in Rome for their efforts “to help us understand each other better, and especially, for what you do for peace. Dialogue: This is the path to peace.”
Of course those holding the automatic weapons in Paris or the machetes in Nigeria don’t care about dialogue — they appear to care only about violence, death and power. That they use religion to justify their actions is blasphemy, of course, to all the religions such people say they represent.
And unfortunately, we don’t have to look across the oceans to see the disaster wrought by purveyors of violence. We see it on the national news almost daily — a mass shooting at a workplace here, a school shooting there. And always the ubiquitous murders that occur all across our city and state. We learn of a little girl shot in the western section of the city; a police officer ambushed and killed in Bardstown. And on and on.
Highland Baptist Church annually places a cross on its front lawn for each soul taken by violence during the course of the year.
In 2014, 54 people were the victims of homicide in Louisville — it made for a yard full of white crosses at the church on the corner of Cherokee Road and Grinstead Drive.
As of Nov. 30, 2014, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Louisville reported 3,681 crimes of violence within its borders last year.
“Right forever on the scaffold; wrong forever on the throne?”
Not if we raise our voices against it. Not if we continue to ask those people, states and extremists given to violence one pertinent question: Didn’t God say to all religions some variation of “love one another?” Didn’t God tell all of us that we should not kill?
Record Editor Emeritus