The massacre in Paris has been deeply distressing. It is about human loss. So many people have lost their lives. So many will have lost their robust good health. So many now weep for husbands, wives, children and friends. People in Paris and elsewhere have lost their confidence that, when they walk the streets, they walk among people who mean them well. Paris itself has lost for a while its magic power to bring people together in humane and cultured ways. It now wears the image, not of smiling faces but of visored faces of police and soldiers.
Those who planned and perpetrated the massacre have also lost much. Some lost their lives. But even before that they lost contact with the humanity that expresses itself in respect for strangers, looks to heal and not to kill, to join and not to tear apart, to touch in love and not in hatred, to struggle for the common good of humanity and not for imagined sectional goods.
That loss especially is deeply distressing. It challenges our belief in the goodness of human beings, in our hope that people can live together in peace, that love is more powerful than hatred. It challenges our commitment to conversation, negotiation and hospitality as the places where differences are to be reconciled.
In the aftermath of the massacre, the human loss ripples out. Muslims in France and around the Western world encounter more discrimination and hatred. Many people close their hearts and wish to close their boundaries to refugees who fled terrorist violence in Syria. More bombs are dropped, more military campaigns prepared, more demeaning security measures devised that will inevitably lead to more death and more hatred.
In such a time we are recalled to the vision of humanity that enlivens Jesuit Social Services. We inherit a tradition in which each human being is precious, none is beyond rescue. We give expression to that tradition by accompanying vulnerable young people, many of whom have acted in anti-social ways. We say we shall never give up on them. We believe that all human beings are shaped by their relationships, finding happiness and meaning in the threads that connect them to society. We believe that all human loss can be restored through love.
After Paris we need to cling to that large hope. The sense that we share the loss of those dying, grieving and fearing in Paris must guide what we do in Australia. As a society we may not lose our own humanity. We should continue to see our Muslim communities as our brothers and sisters, continue to welcome people who differ from us, meditate on the loss that military adventures and security sweeps will bring to the people affected by them, and keep looking to the longer term in which respect and negotiation are the only ways to make peace and to restore what is lost.
Image by Alain Van den Hende