'Love is stronger than hate'

'Love is stronger than hate'

Paul Hobson, The Baptist Times - November 17, 2015

At least 129 people were killed and hundreds more injured in a series of co-ordinated bomb blasts and shootings in the French capital on Friday night.

As details of the attacks began to emerge, the European Baptist Federation (EBF) sent a message of solidarity to the Federation of Baptist Churches in France.

'It is shocking and almost unbelievable that this could happen in France and our first thoughts go out to the families and friends of those who have lost their lives,’ wrote EBF General Secretary the Revd Tony Peck. ‘We pray that the God of peace and all comfort will come alongside them today.

‘But more than that, as the European Baptist Federation we stand with the people of France in their shock and grief, and in their resolve that the evil of terrorism that destroys lives will never have the last word.

‘And we stand alongside you, and all our brothers and sisters in Christ, especially in the FEEB, as you bring comfort to those who will have been traumatised by these terrible events, and as your pastors bring the Word of God to his people tomorrow.

‘May the God of goodness, of love, and of hope draw near to you. My Jesus Christ the Prince of Peace who brought reconciliation by his Cross lead you in these days. And may the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, be among you.’

Mr Peck was at the EBF Anti-Trafficking conference in Sweden when the attacks took place. He continued, ‘Yesterday at our Conference we sang the words of Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa and I leave them with you as a message of hope on this dark day:

Goodness is stronger than evil;
love is stronger than hate;
light is stronger than darkness;
life is stronger than death.
Victory is ours,
through him who loved us.

‘Please assure everyone that we continue to hold you, and all the people of Paris and France in our hearts and our prayers.’

The EBF also released this prayer on social media.

On Saturday the Federation of Baptist Churches in Frances released a statement on its website:

Once again, our country has experienced the horror of terrorism, dark, cold, blind and blinded. France, where the state of emergency has been decreed, wakes up in pain, grief and bereavement. Beyond outrage, sadness and misunderstanding, the Federation Baptiste says all its compassion for the victims and families affected by these murderous attacks. The Federation Baptiste encourages all our churches to support and to help in actions and in prayers.

The statement highlighted 1 Timothy 2: 1-8 and Martin Luther King’s quote about how only love is able to drive out hate, before continuing with a series of prayer points:

We pray for the victims and their families
We pray for French authorities and government
We pray for medical staff helping the victims
We pray for armed forces mobilised in our country and abroad in maintaining security
We pray for our chaplains in charge of accompanying those who, in the army, in hospitals, airports, prisons, need to hear the Gospel
We pray for our enemies
Let us pray for our country
Pray that God will protect us from all evil on the outside and inside of ourselves.

It also thanked the messages of solidarity received, before concluding with the same Desmond Tutu quote used by Mr Peck in his earlier correspondence.

With ISIS claiming responsibility for the Paris attacks, as well as a spate of recent incidents – bombings in Beirut on Thursday and Baghdad on Sunday, as well as last month's bombings in Ankara and the downing of a Russian plane leaving Egypt – the need for healthy inter faith relations is paramount. This was reflected in a statement issued by the Co-Chairs and Vice-Chairs of the Inter Faith Network for the UK on Saturday, the day before the annual Inter Faith Week was due to begin. That statement implored that we do not “allow the wedge of suspicion and distrust to be driven between our communities.”

The full statement read:

We have watched with deep concern the news unfolding of coordinated murders, injury and destruction in terrorist attacks in Paris. Our prayers are with all affected by this atrocity.

A jihadist motive is described in news coverage.

Terrorism has many faces. Sometimes it wears the mask of religion, claiming a justification in religious teaching for its acts. This is rejected in the strongest terms by faith communities.

Terrorists have as their aim the creation of a climate of fear and uncertainty. Their victory begins the moment that people can no longer live in trust and with a sense of shared citizenship. In Britain, we live with the reality of the impact of international terrorism, feeling the shockwaves of events such as those in Paris as well as in other places around the world. In such a context, we need to build on the solid history of inter community relations in the UK. Let us not allow the wedge of suspicion and distrust to be driven between our communities.

Tomorrow Inter Faith Week gets under way in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. One of its themes this year is 'Living Well Together'. The events that the Week will see are a reminder of the reality and the importance of a positive coexistence. Tackling tough issues is part of this and on the agenda are those such as extremism, freedom of expression and responding to social ills such as poverty. Inter faith discussion and engagement does not just focus on easy issues; it is not just the province of those who agree. It is a challenging and vital process that needs, increasingly, to be part of the common discourse of our society.

We conclude, as we began, with our concern and sympathy for our near neighbours in France at this time.

It was signed by The Rt Revd Richard Atkinson OBE (Co-Chair), Vivian Wineman (Co-Chair), Maulana M Shahid Raza OBE (Vice-Chair), Dr Natubhai Shah MBE (Vice-Chair) and Lord Singh of Wimbledon CBE (Vice-Chair).

A prayer for Inter Faith Week has been written by the Revd Andy Williams, Moderator, Baptist Inter Faith Working Group.

Elsewhere a number of bloggers have been writing about the recent events, including Nick Lear, Jim Gordon, Simon Jones and Jon Kuhrt.

Robert Parham of Ethics Daily compiled a number of tweeted responses to events in Paris.

This story was first published on the website of The Baptist Times and is used with permission.