Bishop Ralph – January 2015 Reflection – Sheffield Catholic Cathedral.
2015 hasn’t got off to the best of starts. As I write, TV News bulletins and the Press are covering in full the horrific events that took place Paris during this last week. Once again, not only France, but the world has been shocked by the violent taking of human life at the hands of terrorists.
The events of last week have raised questions about the right to freedom of expression and speech. While we struggle with the notion of the right to publish hurtful material that denigrates religious figures and traditions, clearly, nothing justifies the taking of human life.
The terrorist agenda is to create an atmosphere of fear and suspicion to drive a wedge between people of different nations, cultures and religions. What is interesting, however, is that often such events, rather than divide peoples actually brings them closer together. This is certainly true of last week’s events in Paris. Today, all around the world, people of different cultures and religions, have came together in a spirit of unity and solidarity and defiance against a common enemy.
Here in Sheffield we have played our part. I have not long returned from a gathering outside the City Hall where people from different sections of the community here in Sheffield, those of different religions and those of none, came together to remember those who lost their lives, their families who mourn their loss and to celebrate our unity and our membership, first and foremost, of the one, human family.
But, of course, the greatest numbers of people were on the streets of France today. French officials reckon that there were 3.3 million on the streets in peaceful protest today. In particular, it is reckoned that there were 2 million in Paris alone today making it the largest rally in the history of France. One of the many moving images of the day was that of Jew and Moslem standing together in protest of recent events. Another was of the some of the world leaders linked arm in arm as they led the rally. A brief scan of the crowd gathered, it is clear that last week’s events has had an impact on and touched every generation in France.
One of the TV reporters interviewed a French entrepreneur living in London about how he read or understood events in France that took place in response to the tragic events of last week. His comment was that he felt that something had been let out into the streets of Paris today and that today’s events were a real “game-changer” in our relationships with one another. I hope that he is right!
Let us pray that, out of the tragic events of the last week, will come a good beyond what we dare hope or imagine.