On Friday 13th November, all over Paris people were enjoying their evening. A series of terrorist attacks took place. 129 people were killed, 352 were injured. France, Europe, even the world, went into shock. I was in Paris at the time, celebrating mine and my besties birthday. Thankfully we had decided to have a night in, and the first we heard about the attacks was from concerned friends and family at home. As we watched events unfold on the news it felt completely surreal.
My first thought was, were we safe? It didn’t take long for me to realise that the terrorists were hardly going to make their way up six flights of rickety steep stairs in an obscure apartment block just to get to us. Next, my thoughts turned to those in the places being attacked. I prayed for their safety, for the shooting to stop. Then eventually my thoughts widened to see past the fear of the barrel of a gun and I saw the person behind it. A person created in God’s image.
The first terrorist attack I really remember was 9/11. I was in year 6 and had just starting walking home from school on my own. I remember walking in the door and my mum had the news on. I had this sense of dread in the bottom of my stomach, I couldn’t understand how anyone could do something so awful.
Not long after my youth leader put this quote in front of us: ‘Terrorists?! When I see them I see people for whom my Jesus died. Period.’ It was from a bloke you might have heard of, Brother Andrew. This quote blew my mind. It made sense; of course Jesus had died for them too. I just hadn’t thought of it like that before.
‘Terrorists?! When I see them I see people for whom my Jesus died. Period.’
So often in Christianity, and life in general, we see things in binary. The good guys vs. the bad guys. But Jesus died for all of us, because he loves all of us deeply. When he looks at the person behind the barrel of the gun, his heart breaks. God doesn’t draw the line at loving terrorists, and neither should we.
That Friday I was challenged by this again. Being nearby made it all seem more personal, much harder. It’s so natural to want revenge, to want to hit back. But the Bible teaches that ‘perfect love casts out fear’, the best way to beat terror is with love.
Those guys and girls involved with ISIS, and other extremist organisations, were created to be my brothers and sisters. Many of them have been brainwashed, but we’re called to love the ones doing the brain washing too. In Matthew 5: 44 Jesus says ‘love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you’, I’ve heard so many stories of people from the persecuted Church doing just that. They live in situations of continual persecution and terror and yet they respond with love, lifting their persecutors before our loving God asking him to heal their hearts and bring them back into the family.
It’s not easy, and if you or someone you care about has been affected by terror then I can’t start to imagine how hard what I’m saying might seem, but that’s what I’m trying to do. I’m trying to love terrorists.