I cannot pretend for a second that the awful killing of an elderly priest by fanatics in France hasn't badly affected me. Regular readers of this blog will know that I'm a Roman Catholic. What most won't know is that I'll shortly be going away with a charity that helps disabled people, for a weeks pilgrimage to the shrine of Lourdes in France, as a helper with the group. As such I feel deeply disturbed by todays events. The people who accompany us who have disabilities are all adults, most have been many times. Like me, they have been looking forward to it, since we got back last year. It is impossible to describe to anyone who hasn't been, what a joyful experience it is. Anyone who knows me will attest to the fact that I a not what one may refer to as a "Holy Joe", just someone trying to do something good occasionally.
But today, like never before I am struggling. You don't have to be a Roman Catholic to be revolted by people who can cut the throat of an octogenarian priest saying mass in his own church. Whether you are Atheist, Buddhist, Muslim, Christian, Zoriastrian, Jedi or a follower of the flying Spaghetti monster, I am sure the slaying of a defenceless old man is revolting. Whilst it is just one in a series of awful killings recently, to me at least, the callous nature of the killing is all the more awful. To cut a strangers throat in cold blood and see the horror and terror in their eyes, to me is awful. That the victim was a Priest to me is irrelevant. He was simply avulnerable old man, a soft target, who had never done the perpetrators any harm.
But however I look at it, I can't help coming back to the point that violence begets violence. Somewhere the cycle of violence has to stop. Somewhere, forgiveness has to take precidence over anger and hatred. I don't buy into the idea that one religion or one philosophy has a monopoly on good. I have my belief system because it works well for me. If you are genuinely interested, I'll buy you a beer and explain. But I am not into writing blogs to convert or proseletyse anyone. You see I believe that I there are millions (billions?) of people who are better human beings than me, that don't share my beliefs. It is not your system of belief, but your behaviour that matters.
Assuming my belief system is correct, and we all end up before the good Lord on judgement day, I will be rather disappointed if I jump the queue purely based on belief. If there is an Atheist, A Jew or a Spagettiite who has helped more people than me, lead a better life, done more good, have my place. I don't want a special favour.
The sad truth is that as far as I can see, many religions are perceived by the stupid as a form of "queue jumping" into the great rewards on promise in the afterlife. This is what the peddlers of Jihadi holy war rely on . It is no such thing. A church (or whatever your religion calls it), should simply be an organisation that helps humanity fulfill its potential. I've been mightily impressed by Pope Francis, because he seems to be the first Pope in my lifetime who is a truly spiritual man. He preaches humilty, tolerance and understanding. For the first time in my life, I've not felt a sense of foreboding when I read the words in press/social media "The Pope said...".
I happen to believe that by and large, truly spiritual leaders should be good for humanity. I have profound respect for the Dalai Lama. We have to move on as a society. What I am going to say next, may shock or upset a few people. They may feel that in light of what has been happening, I am someone who doesn't have a footing in reality. I would say nothing is futher from the truth. I humbly ask for everyone to forgive the misguided men, who commit such atrocities. Do not be angry, do not seek vengance, do not look for people to take your anger out on. If you are religious, pray for their forgiveness and pray that those who may seek inspiration in their actions, come to the realisation that the path they have chosen is a dead end, that only alienates people and causes hurt.
And if you are not in any way religious, just put your faith in the fact that such people are a tiny minority. Most have mental health issues. Do not blame the innocent co religionists or strangers who have done nothing for their actions. Don't seek to vent your anger on people who have nothing to answer for. We are all stuck on this rock, travelling through space and time together.
There are many ways we can choose to walk the path, but if we choose Peace, Brotherhood, Consciousness and Conservation as our four main goals, we can have a better world. That starts with fogiving people who do terrible things. Let the anger go. The one thing that awful people who inspire such terror want is for us to turn on our brothers and sisters. The thing that they fear most is that we won't and that we'll chose the path of love and reconciliation.
These are dark days. But however dark things are, so long as we stay strong and don't give up, the light will eventually shine on us.