This morning’s attacks in Brussels have sent shock waves once again through Europe. We stand with our brothers and sisters, the people of Belgium, as they come to terms with loss, injury and fear.
What do you do when such a blow is struck against you? Reach for a gun? Ban immigration? Take out your anger and frustrations on the refugees flooding into your country? None of these responses help, because none of them get to the root of the real problem. Anger sometimes makes us feel better, but if we direct it at the wrong people, it is more likely to make their situation and ours worse than ever. So what can we do?
1. We can pray for peace.
When Jesus came into Jerusalem he rode on a donkey, fulfilling the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9. This is not a symbol of poverty, but of peace. Kings did ride donkeys in the ancient world, but they did so to indicate that they came in peace. If you want war, come on a horse. Jesus speaks peace to our cities. Peace to Paris. Peace to Brussels. Peace to London. Wherever Jesus arrives, he arrives to bring peace. Can we join him in praying for the peace of our cities?
2. Muslims are not the enemy.
We can know that terrorists are as much the enemy of our muslim neighbours as they are of us. Terrorism is a choice by non-military personnel to adopt a military approach to their problems. It is the victory of violence over reason and of cruelty over community. It does not and cannot be a representative action of a community, because by its very nature it destroys community. Community by definition agree the rules by which they will live together. Terrorists by definition trash them.
3. We can pray for those who are stalked by fear.
The Psalmist was right in telling us that it is not death itself but the shadow of death that most oppresses us. Fear causes people to retreat from trust and its corollary, faith. We need to pray urgently that the peoples of Europe will not be ruled by fear; that courage and wisdom will prevail, even against such attacks. Perfect love, John tells us, sends fear packing. Can we pray for a revolution of love across our cities?
Every act of love is an act of the dismissal of fear. Every decision to trust weakens the forces of destruction. Every prayer for peace denies violence a place at the table. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who knew a thing or two about politically sanctioned violence, said that “The Christian must treat his enemy as a brother, and requite his hostility with love. His behaviour must be determined not by the way others treat him, but by the treatment he himself receives from Jesus; it has only one source, and that is the will of Jesus.” As the people of Belgium begin three days of national mourning we pray that they will know the peace and consolation of a God of love, and know that violence will not - cannot - ever win.