Hindsight is, as they say, 20:20. It’s usually easier to see, after the event, what should have been done to prevent it from happening. But whether this is true for the recent tragic events in Paris is a case for argument.
So whilst police and anti-terrorism experts try to analyse reasons and propose laws to prevent such things from happening again, most people come to their own conclusions. Maybe it’s down to Europe and our ever increasingly open borders? Or perhaps it’s the opposite – a lack of communication between Belgian and French police? Or then again, perhaps it’s down to our own inability to raise young people with purpose and passion for values of tolerance and fraternity?
Putting reasons aside, maybe the most shocking element of the indiscriminant shooting was precisely that it seemed to have such a generalized target: everything and everyone. The Charlie Hebdo shootings in January were horrific enough, but everyone knew what was being targeted. Now, the horror was raised to a new level. All ages, all religions, all nationalities, all backgrounds. Everyone and anyone.
The results were of course deliberate. If anyone is a target, then everyone should beware. Fear will take precedence so that people are scared to go out and tourists cancel their holidays. The end game is to make the City of Lights into a ghost town. Such a result might have been possible, except for the amazing resilience of most people to dismiss the ambitions of the terrorists and simply get on with life. And so that’s what we do. Our busy lives keep us on task, enable us to keep going, prevent us from taking a step back. And like most things, this has its good side and its bad. Coping mechanisms are good if they prevent us from breaking down. But taken to extremes they prevent us from thinking about issues and seeking purpose in life. They take our minds away from the destiny awaiting every man, and focus on the imminent, the now, today.
I would like to say that tragic events get us in touch with ourselves, make us think about purpose, draw us closer to God. But, as with all things, unless we deliberately enter into the reflection, there is little chance that our lives will change for the better. May God help us to take stock. May his Spirit speak like a megaphone, blasting through our indifference and drawing us to Himself. For His love too is indiscriminant, given freely to all who would receive it. Everyone and anyone.
Simon Yeomans, OM France field leader.