Today is the 75th anniversary of the Coventry blitz during the 2nd World War. The following day the Provost of Coventry Cathedral stood in its ruins and spoke 2 words,
"Father forgive".These words are now engraved behind the Altar of Reconciliation in the ruins of the old cathedral. Kathryn Fleming, Canon Pastor points out in her blog post 'From Coventry to Paris' those 2 words, "Father forgive" is a sentence with no object so to pray that is to avoid pointing the finger at 'them' but instead to pray for us all:
'It's not "Father forgive THEM" - projecting the violence and hatred out to the other, and thereby justifying acts of reciprocal violence and vengeance...Rather "Father forgive" is a prayer for us all - for the many ways, great and small, in which we wound one another and mar God's image in us day by day.I can't imagine those words were universally popular in the city, as people emerged from air raid shelters to pick about the rubble of their homes, or searched the morgues desperately for friends and family.When we are in great pain, it's natural to want to hurt others.When we see the innocent suffering, it's tempting to want the perpetrators to suffer in return. But "an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind" - and whatever the pain, to meet violence with violence can never help.'75 years on it is the day after another tragedy, this time in Paris on Friday 13 November 2015 when so many have been killed, injured or left grieving and in shock after terrorist attacks on ordinary people who had been enjoying a peaceful evening out. I feel outrage and anger even though I am not directly affected. I also feel sad for those who are suffering pain and grief because of last night's event. What is a Christian response? Perhaps it is wise to temper instinctive reactions with restraint, to curb words or actions that may do more harm than good. For that thought I am indebted to Digitalnun and her post this morning, 'Tragedy in Paris' in which she writes:
"We must not pass the poison on — not because that is what the terrorists want (I have no idea what they want) but because to do so is to diminish our own humanity; and I think our humanity matters. This morning, when everyone is in shock, please take a moment just to listen. Ignore the clamour inside; forget yourself; listen to what the Holy Spirit is urging; and remember the Benedictine motto, pax, peace. It is surrounded by a crown of thorns which both protect and bar the way, reminding us that to choose peace and love rather than hatred and violence is true heroism, true valour, and comes at enormous cost."In 'Peacemakers and Peacekeepers' Liz asks:
"Religious leaders are calling for prayers for peace.But how long before governments retaliate with violence?How long before more lives are lost, lives that will not be mourned or even named publicly, mere collateral in the war on terrorism?In this week when the UK has honoured those who have fallen in war, along with all those who "kept the home fires burning", as we've heard impassioned pleas from many veterans of war to find a way to peace, we hold our collective breaths, fearing what seems inevitable in a world that knows not how to make peace - that once again we will be led, by our power hungry governments into more revenge and violence in the name of justice.And our tears mingle with those of God..."Yes, for us all, it seems the best we can pray for ourselves and all the peoples of the world is, 'Father forgive'.
Image Credit:Roger Davies, Geograph, CC License