Note Before You Read: I know I’m a little late in publishing this, but what can I say…sometimes life gets in the way and some things fall off the plate.
I originally began writing this right after the attack on Charlie Hebdo in Paris and continued working on it for a few days…until “life” happened. Even though I put it off and it might seem a little late to post this, I think there is still an important lesson for each of us to hear from these events.
So as you read this, keep in mind that the timetable may seem off from where we are currently. Enjoy!
By now I think most people have heard about the terrorist attack in Paris, France this week. It all started when two terrorists with links to Al Qaeda in Yemen stormed the office of a controversial magazine in Paris killing 12 people, including the magazine’s editor, and wounding many others.
The terrorists were on the run for several days, hiding out in a massive forest outside Paris and in a small nearby town. Then early this morning (Friday, January 9, 2015) we received word that the terrorists were hiding in a small printing office where they had one hostage and that not far away two more Islamic terrorists, believed to be part of the same terror cell in France, were holding hostages at a Jewish Kosher deli.
At the time of this writing on Friday, January 09, 2015, the media is reporting that three of the suspects were killed and that the fourth suspect (the only female) had escaped and that all hostages from both locations were freed, except for two hostages who were reportedly shot and killed. UPDATE: As it turns out, authorities now believe the female suspect may not have been with the other suspects as originally thought and may have left for Syria immediately following the attack at Charlie Hebdo.
This senseless violence is all very sad and heartbreaking. Initial reports say the motive of the attack against the magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris on Monday was the magazine’s repeated irreverent depictions of the Prophet Mohammed. The magazine has also caricaturized prominent figures of other religions and, yet, I can’t recall the last time I saw a Buddhist monk wearing a suicide vest and taking hostages…but hey, that’s beside the point, right?
As I read accounts and reports of the ongoing manhunt for the two radical Islamist brothers, I came across several reports that other European countries were also bumping up their terror threat levels in light of the attacks in Paris. Spain, Britain, and Germany were among these countries to bolster their security. In addition, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia warned that extremists could attack Europe and the U.S. if there is not a strong international response against terrorism in Iraq and Syria.
But where were these countries when Israel was warning of the terrorist threat in the world? The people now sporting #jesuischarlie, where were they when Hamas was launching hundreds and hundreds of rockets into Israel this summer? Why is it that the world always waits to act against the threat of evil in the world until it touches their own lives? Why not stop it before it takes the lives of so many innocent people? Before families lose sons, daughters, husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, and beloved friends? Why do we think we won’t be touched by the evil in the world?
Why do we believe that somehow this evil will be stopped before it reaches our doorstep?
And how do we think it will be stopped if no one stands up to fight it?
Why didn’t France do something before now? Before this heinous attack took the lives of 16 and forever changed the lives of countless others? France has long been the European Mecca for Muslim immigrants and has had to face new concerns in dealing with this influx of Muslim immigration. Several years ago I read an article detailing the legal battle over outlawing the burqa (the head-to-toe covering Muslim women wear) in parts of Europe. With the surge of Muslim immigrants coming into France and the dozens of security alerts that French citizens are returning from fighting in Syria and Iraq with ISIS, could the government not see this threat coming?In fact, the two brothers who carried out the attack at Charlie Hebdo and the man who held hostages at the Kosher deli were all French citizens who had recently returned from fighting alongside terrorists.
I have even read of France’s “no-go zones,” as they are called, in predominantly Muslim areas. They are areas in France that tourists, locals, and even police do not go into because of the violence and criminal activity that takes place in these areas. And even though the city of Paris is trying to sue Fox News for their report, there are indeed European no-go zones.
And now Spain sees the looming threat on its borders. But what will be done to stop it?
Today there was a Unity March in Paris that was led by dozens of world leaders in a stand against terrorism (it should be noted that the highest ranking person to represent the U.S. was the ambassador to France and not the President or Vice President, but hey, who has time to stand against terrorism, right?). But why did it take so long for the world to unite against terrorism? Why did it take so long for the leaders of the world to unite in this type of stand? Why didn’t world leaders unite when Hamas, Al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood were united against Israel? Where was the unity march when ISIS invaded Iraq and Syria? Where was the outcry and hashtags when dozens and dozens of Christians were beheaded, impaled, burned alive, or kidnapped by ISIS?
What makes the terrorist attack in Paris so different? Why did the attack on journalists affect so many more people than the deaths of Jews and Christians?
The response to the attack at Charlie Hebdo reminds me of the words spoken in 1946 by concentration camp survivor Pastor Martin Niemöller.
First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out – because I was not a socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out – because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out – because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me – and there was no one left to speak for me.
The words of Pastor Niemöller should serve as a reminder to us that we are not invincible. None of us should think that we are somehow immune to the evils of this world. Yes, it is true that God is our strong tower, but does that give us license to hide our heads in the sand? Does that give us reason to look away from the wrong happening in the world; to not speak out against the injustice?
Since I began writing this two weeks ago, another terrorist attack has been carried out. This time in Tel Aviv. Once again, terror was brought to the streets of Israel. It was a stabbing attack on a city bus during the morning rush hour. At least a dozen people were stabbed in this horrific attack.
Immediately following the attack, stories of heroism and bravery emerged. The bus driver remained in control of the bus even after he was stabbed, possibly saving lives from not crashing into cars or pedestrians on the sidewalk. Then he wrestled the attacker and tried to fight him off before he could attack the other passengers. When the attacker moved toward the passengers, the bus driver slammed on the brakes of the bus causing the attacker to lose his balance, allowing the passengers precious seconds to run for their lives, possibly saving dozens more. When the bus driver could no longer fight, he called a friend and co-worker, told him about the attack and asked him to take care of his children. This man is a hero. He put thoughts of others before himself during this entire attack. If only we could all be this selfless.
Then there was a 13-year old boy on his way to school. He saw the attacker leave the bus driver and start walking toward him and the other passengers in the back of the bus. He threw his backpack at the attacker and bought himself a few more precious seconds. Then, in order to help the other passengers escape, this young boy broke the window with his elbow and helped others crawl out as well. This alerted the bus driver who then opened the doors allowing more passengers to escape. Would I be this brave and selfless in a situation like this? To risk my life for others? For strangers?
If we could save just one life from our actions, is that not the same as saving the entire world? Each life is precious and valuable. It doesn’t mean that we have to go to Syria or Iraq and fight ISIS ourselves or that we should pick up guns and fight in the war. But are guns the only way to fight?
Ideas, thoughts, words…aren’t these weapons in war as well? After all, aren’t battles won or lost in the hearts and minds of men? We have a responsibility to speak out against injustice; to do what we can for those in need. It will look different for everyone, but each of us has something to offer. Each of us has a part to play.
Then I heard YHVH asking, “Whom should I send as a messenger to this people? Who will go for us?”
I said, “Here I am. Send me.” Isaiah 6:8
The word hineni in Hebrew is translated as “here I am.” But, as with most Hebrew words, the meaning goes so much deeper than that. Hineni carries the connotation of urgency. It reflects a completely open and willing heart to the urgent call of YHVH. When you use the word hineni, what you’re essentially saying is, “Here I am…with all of my heart, mind, body, soul, and spirit ready and willing to do all that You have called me to do.” It’s the response you give when you are fully present in the moment and you aren’t holding anything back from Him. It’s the response you give when you are fully prepared to do all that He has asked of you; even if it means sacrificing of yourself and putting your desires on hold.
The question is, will you be willing to go where He sends? Will you be willing to speak the words He puts in your heart? Will you be willing to go where He sends? Will you be able to stand up when He says, “Arise! The time has come.”
YHVH has a purpose and a calling for each one of us. There is a part in His plan that we each can play. But it won’t just happen or fall into our laps. We must have ears to hear His call and a heart that is willing to take that first step into the battle. It won’t be easy. We can’t hold anything back. It will require everything we have; it will require all of us.
So…how will you answer His call?