Normally, if one were to glance at my title for this bulletin article they would be led to think that I had just come back from a holiday there, but alas, we all know what even just the word ‘Paris’ signifies following last week’s Islamist terrorist attacks that left a total of 17 people dead, including the terrorists. That country and the globe in some way were unified by the human resilience to oppose the violence, hate and extremism that terrorism is to the idea of freedom. In the face of this kind of news all of us, in one way or another, become commentators on what is going on, offering our own opinions on a matter that is admittedly so complex. We get our education on what has happened largely from the medias’ telling of the story and the various experts they interview to help us unpack and somehow understand what has taken place. Of course, it’s not so much ‘what’ has gone on that leaves us baffled but the ‘why’ of it all. And that’s where our own opinions seem to come in based on what we’ve heard and how we ourselves are putting the world together in our own minds. For what it’s worth, here are my two cents worth on the matter.
Just the idea that one could speak and act as though they love God, rise from their prayer and go out with the full intention of shooting, beheading and killing another human person or many of them deemed ‘the enemy’ is beyond our sense of rational thinking and logic and that’s why we label them ‘extremists’ as though they were somehow a handful of disconnected crazies who were committing these horrific, barbaric and inhuman acts. Yet they are connected and their power reaches into every corner of the world as they in a universal way call out and encourage more acts of terrorism on anyone identified as the enemy. And of course the enemy for extremist Islamic terrorists is everybody.
The terrorists have been successful in their craft for we are in fact terrorized, though we may have buried ourselves into the hope that we are safe. We saw 9/11 just fourteen years ago which left such an imprint in our minds about that which is unfathomable and evil. The only thing anyone could compare it with was to say that it was like watching a movie or having a nightmare. Now, in just a few short years we have seen the rise of Islamic terrorism which has touched the many countries and cities of the world we would think were untouchable; New York, Boston, London, and Ottawa along with the plethora of other cities around the earth that have experienced the ravages and the planned terror of this global terrorist network. Paris is just the latest….. or was it?
Last week, while the world was transfixed by the unfolding terrorist events in France, over 2,000 civilians of Northern Nigeria were slaughtered by members of the Boko Haram, whose name officially means, “People Committed to the Prophet’s Teachings for Propagation and Jihad”. Founded in just 2002, Boko Haram, an affiliate of al-Qaeda which strongly forbids Western education, is a militant and Islamist movement based in Northern Nigeria. Since 2009 until June of 2014 they have killed over 5,000 civilians, though most people will likely remember the 276 school girls they kidnapped last April from Chibok. A whopping 1.5 million people have fled for their lives. This past week the Archbishop of Jos, in central Nigeria, accused the West of ignoring the continued threat of the militant Islamist group, Boko Haram. The Archbishops warning followed the killing of 23 people in a crowded market by three female bombers, one reportedly as young as 10-years-old who likely didn’t even know what the device strapped to her was.
Yet we might shake our heads and mutter something about those “nutbars” and move on with our lives and all the while we lull our minds into somehow thinking that it’s happening “over there somewhere. We can’t do anything about it so why should we be concerned or care?” But care we should and care we must! The reality is that the threat is real because what these terrorists motivated by religion are capable of is so random. They don’t care for the safety of their own lives much less the many they are willing to take with them. The lone gunman who stormed the Parliament Building in Ottawa after shooting the soldier in the back at the War Memorial last October knew full well that he wasn’t going to come out alive and didn’t much care either. In his own mind, his twisted faith had led him to think he was doing something noble and good and worthy of his life. How wrong and how sad.
I think also about what is going on in the world all around us and here in Canada with our silent and yet persistent neglect of the care and the action we should take toward the defense of the Unborn – but we don’t. If we would only shake our heads to ourselves at the killing of innocence in a far off country we are not likely to pay much heed to the unseen killing of innocence right where we live with its ever-increasing numbers. When many Catholics and Catholic political leaders would dare to say before God and man that they are “pro-choice”, they should be asked, “Then what form of abortion do you prefer?”, since the “choice” they are speaking about is a matter of life or death for the child in the womb. But to ask such a question would be impolite.
I am absolutely sure that most of you reading the bulletin right now have never heard of a 38-year-old woman named Mary Wagner. She is presently in jail in Ontario for her defense of the unborn child. She walked into an abortion clinic and handed each person waiting for an abortion a single red rose. Yep, how detestable! What a heinous act! So she’s in jail for her love and kindness for the unborn and their mothers while Justin Trudeau and many like him freely and proudly state that a woman should have the right to choose to kill the life within her (though of course we call it Women’s Health rights). Mary Wagner has been jailed twice since 2002 for going into abortion clinics and counselling the women to keep their babies and for that she has been jailed. She could have been out on bail last spring as she awaited her court date if she would sign an agreement that she would stay away from abortion clinics, a request she refused. So, she spent four months in jail waiting to go to court. Mary is currently in jail again in Milton, Ontario, most recently for going into an abortion clinic and handing the women wrapped Christmas ornaments. Mary said, “If they ask, ‘What’s inside?’ (I) told them to wait and see — just like they should do with their babies.”
And while most in Ontario wouldn’t know anything about her story, protests were held at the Canadian Embassies in Germany and in Poland recently asking the Canadian Prime Minister to intervene in Mary’s case and release her from jail.
Have we lost a sense of justice for the individual while we will go to great lengths to fight for and stand for justice only for the big “issues” like so-called same-sex marriage? Whether it’s the individual unborn child of God or the individual woman who has more moral guts than a room full of self-serving politicians and luke-warm Christians who would never utter a whisper or a prayer for Mary Wagner much less in defense of the unborn child, we should care.
In an age where Christians are so fond of using the term WWJD? (What Would Jesus Do?), what do we honestly think Jesus would do in the case of the murder of innocent children so passively accepted because it conveniently remains ‘unseen’ or the jailing of a woman like Mary Wagner or the Toronto grandmother Linda Gibbons who simply goes to jail for holding a sign near abortion clinics in Toronto depicting a crying child that reads: Why Mom? When I have so much love to give.
Let’s admit it – people with a conscience and who act on it disturb us and make us feel very uncomfortable. They remind us and point to a bigger picture of a bigger problem we’d prefer to say is someone else’s problem. Yet these are the people who act on their baptismal call to be prophets who show the world and its people what they are doing and what they are called to be. The Christian is called to be a saint, each and every one of us. We are to pray for injustice on the big issues and the individual injustices people suffer and we are to speak out about them and make a difference in this world and in our own communities. We must care just as much for the rights and justice rightly accorded to the individual as well as the social justice for all.
Allow me to summons once again the great wisdom of Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen:
“What our Lord says to Judas, he says to the world today: You seemingly are very interested in social justice. Why are you not concerned about individual justice? You love your neighbor, why do you not love God? This is the attitude of the world today. We have swung away from a period in which we were concerned with individual sanctification to the neglect of the social order. Now we have gone to the extreme of being immersed with social justice, civil rights, and so forth, and we are not the least bit concerned about individual justice and the duty of paying honor and glory to God. If you march with a banner, if you protest, then your individual life may be impure, alcoholic, anything you please. That does not matter. Judas is the patron saint of those who divide that universal law of God: Love God and love neighbour.”