Mass for the Victims of the Attack in Quebec City

2017-02-07

All Brothers and Sisters within Humanity

Mass for the Victims of the Attack in Quebec City

Monday, January 30, 2017; Mary Queen of the World Cathedral

Mgr Christian Lépine, Archbishop of Montreal



Confronted with violence

Innocent lives have just been taken during an attack inside a Quebec City mosque. When an unspeakable tragedy takes place, when innocent people are killed, we are all deeply affected. We speak of peace, we desire peace, and yet, the spirit of evil, the spirit of hatred and the spirit of violence exist. One question to ask ourselves is this: When there is violence, injustice and terrorism, how am I affected? How does this affect the way I view things? In some cases, it could result in feelings of fear, anger and perhaps even hatred. And when it goes as far as to cause us to experience an inner shift toward fear, which turns into anger and then hatred, it can seem as though we want to respond to hatred with hatred.  

Can one respond to hatred with hatred? Responding in this way is to enter an endless downward spiral. And in the end, although we had our sights set on peace, by entering the spiral of hatred, we end up working against peace. When originally we desired to fight violence and terrorism, we ourselves end up contributing to the proliferation of violence. Do I believe, do we believe that we can overcome evil with good? Do we believe it? This is a challenging question because the answer is not to be found in the notion that it is others who must change for things to improve! This question is addressed to each and every one of us: "What do I need to change for things to improve, for things to improve within me and through me?"  

Seeing the dignity in one another

One of the most important elements is how we see others: "How do I view others?" When I see someone who is different than me, someone whom I don't understand, do I see this person as another human being? Do I always see the other person as another human being?  

The Word of God provides us with untold wealth in helping us make positive changes in the way we see people. Among the most powerful messages in the Bible is the first chapter of Genesis: "So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them" (Gn 1:27). Every human being, throughout the history of humankind, from anywhere, from any point in time, belonging to any race and culture, speaking any language, is created in God's image. We know this! But when an attack occurs and we are affected and appalled by it that is the time to remember this, to repeat it to ourselves and never stop repeating it! We are all brothers and sisters within humanity because we are all human beings, every one of us created by God, in his image, and we are all called to enter into covenant with God. Therein lies the profound understanding that we are called to have of one another. Every time we feel fear, anger and perhaps hatred welling up within us, we must not allow fear to take root, or anger to become hatred, or to be swept up in hatred. We must address it as quickly as we can by standing before God and asking him to keep our eyes focused on the dignity of every person.  

Does violence exist? Yes. Does crime exist? Yes. Does injustice exist? Yes. But can I live through these events without allowing them to mark or even distort my perception? Can I live through these events while firmly believing in the dignity of every human being? In the attack, it was the victims who were targeted. Beyond them, it was the Muslim community that was the target. And beyond the Muslim community, we were all targeted in a way, because it is our desire to be a land where people from every part of the world feel welcome. So, should we generalize? An individual, or a group, carried out an attack... Do we generalize and point at an entire community?  

I, therefore, urge you to ask God continuously to renew the way you see others, so that you may always see their human dignity first, whomever they may be.  

The power of meaningful encounter

The other challenge is to believe in the power of good. In a way, it is much easier to believe in the power of evil than it is to believe in the power of good. Evil always presents itself as an assertion of power, and goodness seems weak in comparison. Yet, only goodness has the power to touch hearts deeply and to transform them constructively. So, do we believe in the power of patience, forgiveness and dialogue?  

Being open to having meaningful encounters, is this not the first step to take? How many times in our lives, after harbouring prejudices against another culture, against a belief that is not our own, has having a personal encounter melted away our prejudices? We realize that others are just like us, that we are all human beings. Perhaps we should ask ourselves: "What can I do to have a meaningful encounter with others," rather than hide behind walls? We know in advance that if we take the time to get to know others, our prejudices will fade away. Our prejudices are reinforced when we hide behind a wall of ignorance, so to speak. Taking the time to have meaningful encounters with others is important.  

In the wake of the attack, we responded by participating in such meaningful encounters and offering a respectful presence. People showed up to stand in solidarity with the victims and their families, with the Muslim community. Throughout Quebec and Canada, people were moved by the tragedy, and regardless of their beliefs, they wished to express their support. Political leaders, members of civil society from all backgrounds, Jews, Christians, all wished to reach out through their prayer, thoughts and presence to those who were affected by this human tragedy and to the Muslim community, which often feels singled out whenever terrorist attacks occur.  

Simply to have a meaningful encounter with one another, that's it. Together, we stated that it is important to take the time to encounter one another, to draw some good from this tragedy that affects not only individuals, but families and communities as well. Good will triumphant if we continually grow in our appreciation of the inherent dignity of others and if we remain open to engage in meaningful encounters with one another.  

Instrument of peace

Pope Paul VI once said: "We must build a civilization of love." Pope John Paul II then said: "We are called to build a civilization of love and truth."  And Pope Francis expanded these appeals by encouraging and inspiring us to build a civilization of encounter. It is important to take the path of personal, meaningful encounter. We must not shy away from encountering one another. We must have the same confidence in the humanity of others that we attribute to our own humanity. We must trust that although our beliefs and convictions differ, we are all part of the same human race, the same country, same province, same city and same society, and that we are all called to be in meaningful contact with one another.  

There is the tendency to build what is known as ghettos or clusters, separated from one another, and to think that in this way we will achieve peace. But this does not work, because when we do not encounter one another, our prejudices grow. When tragedies occur, our prejudices increase. How then do we become instruments of peace?  

By recognizing the dignity of one another, taking the time to encounter one another, and taking the time to get to know each other on the personal, community, religious and social level. Why not establish contact? Why not think meaningful encounter? Focusing on perception, focusing on meaningful encounter will help calm our fear, quell our anger, and root out the spirit of hatred. By replacing the wall of ignorance with the bridge of meaningful encounter, we overcome prejudice, we find reasons to trust one another, and we learn to enter into dialogue and to build peace.  
I urge you to entrust your hearts to God, so that he may fill you with his peace and guide all of us along the path of mutual respect and openness of heart. We can pray this wonderful prayer of St. Francis of Assisi, "Lord, make me an instrument of your peace."  

Overcoming evil with good

The task we face is one of continuity; we must constantly sow seeds of peace to overcome evil with good, to overcome fear, anger and hatred with good.  

If we allow ourselves to think that we can overcome hatred with hatred, it is hatred that wins, because we then embody hatred. If we remain peaceful and compassionate when confronted with hatred, it is goodness that will triumph in our hearts. And if we do this together, goodness will triumph in our society.  

With Jesus Christ, with the Christian faith, we have everything we need, every spiritual resource to preserve within us a heart that is both peaceful and at peace, because it is not only toward peace which we can strive, but toward the peace that we receive from Christ. The first thing that Jesus Christ said when he appeared to the Apostles after his resurrection was: "Peace be with you." And should we not, as disciples of the crucified and risen Jesus Christ, make our first gesture, our first words spoken when we meet another person, different or not, "Peace be with you." If we allow Christ's peace to dwell in our hearts, we could achieve this. It would be from the heart and from the soul. And we could forge ties of dialogue and peace. This tragedy, which now confronts us, could be a moment that leads us to say: "Let us do more." Let us do more to pray, to achieve peace and dialogue, and to encounter one another. .


+ Christian Lépine
Archbishop of Montreal

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