One person at a time…

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The terrorist attack on a Christmas market in Berlin is wrong in so many ways, some more obvious than others.

  • The families and friends of 12 individuals who are now facing Christmas with the sudden and unexpected loss of a loved one. This of course being just the first Christmas that they will experience this loss, every Christmas from now on will compel them to relive this awful even
  • Those who are critically ill in hospital and their families whose Christmas will now be dominated by hospital visits and medical reports.
  • Those who will recover but who have received life changing injuries and will spend 2017 in residential rehabilitation as they adjust to the physical limitations placed upon them by this monstrous act. 
  • The emergency services who had to attend the sick and dying who will find it difficult to enjoy anything for some time to come.

These are the most obvious and significant negative outcomes but there are others, less obvious, but still part of the chaos and confusion the terrorist sought to perpetuate.

  • Children for whom the magic of Christmas has been forever removed.
  • Businesses that will now fold as they are no longer able to trade during this busiest of periods.
  • The disappointment of those who had planned to visit the Christmas market this week.
  • The fear and uncertainty which will now be felt by any large public gathering of people who could become the next target.
  • The negative impact it will have upon the lives and hopes of genuine refugees and asylum seekers throughout Western Europe.

As a Christian, there is another incomprehensible evil associated with this act and that is the fact that it has been done in the name of my God – the God of Abraham. It is hard to understand what can motivate a 23-year-old man to drive an articulated lorry at high speed into an area crowded with innocent members of the public. He had no idea whether the victims of his crime would be children or babies in pushchairs, some of his victims could have conceivably been Muslims. His act was indiscriminate and cowardly in the extreme. The fact that this act has been motivated by religion will give further ammunition to those who want to eradicate all forms of spiritual faith from our society. Even though the terrorist’s actions were completely at odds with the teaching contained within the Koran those who have a passionate dislike for religion will not be presenting this individual as a maverick. Once again religion will be painted as the real murderer.

The Koran, along with the Jewish Scriptures and the New Testament teaches tolerance, hospitality to the alien, nonviolence, mercy and compassion. It is only when verses are taken out of their historical context that they become justification for arbitrary acts of violence. Whether it is white supremacists, those blowing up the cars of doctors who carry out abortions, those campaigning for the castration of homosexuals or individuals driving articulated lorries at high speed into a crowded market — there will always be those who have neither the desire nor the time to properly understand the tenets of their own faith. There will always be those looking for divine permission to molest, maim and murder.

Although there are times when we feel overwhelmed by the influence and impact of evil within our world we still have a responsibility (regardless of whether that responsibility is motivated by spiritual faith or human compassion) to lead by example. Although it seems trite and hackneyed there can only be peace on earth if it begins with me. In my workplace, in my family, in my community and in my church peace must begin with me. The greatest tool I have at my disposal is my life, my words, my actions and reactions. Whether it’s in conversation with a colleague, whether driving the car, whether encouraging one of my children to tidy up after themselves… Whatever the context peace on earth must begin with me. Cancer attacks the body one cell at a time and in the same way is eradicated one cell at a time. Society is not a single entity but a collection of individuals and the world can only become a better place if it does so one person at a time and that process needs to begin with me.

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About Andrew Bale

I am a Salvation Army Officer based in Southend on Sea in Essex, UK. I am passionate about personal holiness and how that is reflected in a 'career of interrupted victory over temptation.' I am married with 4 children (2 grown up and married, one at University and one about to start University.)
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