One more postponement of our series! “Nothing comes from violence, and nothing ever could.” These lines from Fragile, perhaps Sting’s most powerful song, ring true these days in Paris and Belgium, and of course in the Middle East.
Looking at the surface, terrorism is on the rise, and European governments are right to respond by clamping down, following leads, arresting suspects, and guarding targeted stores and institutions. It is sad to see many Jewish people leaving their adopted France for the putatively safe haven of Israel. France has prided itself on being a welcoming country. France can also rightly claim paternity of the “Rights of Man” (along with Great Britain of course).
Beneath the surface is a structural problem that has been plaguing France for years. Young people have been brought up on consumerism (I can have what I want when I want it) and the welfare state (free schooling, free health care, unemployment benefits). Suddenly, January 7th, all that was put in question. Should the French have been quite so surprised? France has a high rate of unemployment and many younger people, particularly ethnic minorities, are without work, and frustrated, often to the point of violence. They live in run-down suburbs and are despised by the dominant culture. No wonder, then, that France has supplied more jihadists to Iraq and Syria than any other country. Inexcusable as it is, these disenfranchised young people move from despair to a “mission.”
After the horrible murders at Charlie Hebdo and the kosher grocery store, the government-led mass rally for the cause of “solidarity” and free-speech was astonishing. Support was literally global. Would everything go back to normal? Not quite. Manuel Valls has deployed 10,000 soldiers to protect synagogues, schools and publishing houses. Divisions among the French population are growing. There is increasing appeal to the far-right, whose answer to much of this is to curb immigration.
I don’t want to pretend there is a simple answer to such a complex problem. But surely this is an opportunity for the Gospel. Once one is reconciled to God, through the death and resurrection of Our Lord, then reconciliation between people should follow. While the Bible recognizes the need for enforcing the peace (Romans 13:1-7), no amount of force will bring true peace. Our Seminary in Aix-en-Provence is busy training leaders to proclaim the Gospel of peace. Thank you for keeping them in your prayers.
Very Truly Yours,
William Edgar, President