Lloyd Steffen Remarks – Vigil (in the wake of the French bombing. . . .) November 17, 2015
The bombings that took place in Paris last Friday evening fill all of us with horror and dismay. How sad that anyone—any individual or any group—could resort to suicidal violence to advance a cause or think that such acts address problems or somehow make things right or make things better. Killing people does not make things better—killing only diminishes the world, it destroys the world bit by bit, one wrongly lost life at a time. ISIS diminished the world by its attacks in Paris, and Lebanon, and over the Sinai; and other groups this past year have similarly attacked Nigeria and Kenya. Tonight each of you is showing solidarity with the victims of violence in Europe and Africa. Tonight each of you is walking by candlelight to illuminate the hope that this world of ours may yet be built on foundations of justice, peace and generosity toward those in need—and against violence as an instrument of rage or a means for change.
As people of good will have been condemning these acts of violence, be reminded that religious people around the world have been sharing in the pain of these terrible acts. Perhaps remembering that the Qur’an says that “whosoever kills a soul-- it shall be as if he killed all of humanity,” The Grand Mosque in Paris issued a statement condemning the attacks and calling on the Muslim community to donate blood and pray for France; and among the many religious voices in our own country condemning the violence, Rabbi Michael Lerner echoed these sentiments by saying that in the Jewish tradition “to save one life is to save the world” which is also to say “those who cause the death of even one person are destroying the entire world.”
It is the world and all of humanity that has been attacked; it is the world that by our dedication to justice and peace we must resolve to save from the worst that is within us. Tonight we are in vigil here not because someone from this particular community fell victim to violence in a Paris theater, but because members of our human family—people we do not know--have been subjected to aggression and lethal violence. We must be aware of this suffering, for it affects all of us—it affects the whole world.
Tonight and in the days ahead, let us remember those who suffer the pain of these events most dearly—survivors and victim families. Let us join our hearts and ask that they receive comfort and consolation, that they might have courage and endurance to move ahead in life without fear, that they might mourn their dead in peace. We ask blessing and wholeness, healing and protection for all harmed by the violence of recent days and weeks and months, and ask, in the spirit of prayer, that peace will come to us, not from outside or from on high, but from within our hearts and by our stretch of generous care--one human family member to another.