My heart goes out to the families and friends of those killed in Paris a few days ago.
Headlines around the world (and my Facebook feed) are filled with the horror of the atrocity. Quite right too: it was a barbaric and ruthless slaying of gentle fellow men who dared to bring a little humour to dark parts of our world.
Whilst their families grieve, it feels that everyone is crying out also in their anguish.
These are cries of anger, outrage. People feel sick at the thought of terror striking deep in the beautiful city of Paris. This is a perfectly human response.
The media and nearly all the people I know are writing and talking of the horrors of Islam; some say that such atrocities done in the name of such a religion (or any religion at all) are a thing to be reviled.
I can see why.
Yet, in the daily news grind we all too easily forget yesterday’s headlines over our morning coffee. Or stop to think what might have seeded the murdering intent of the horrors in Paris this week.
In our outrage today, how many of us care to remember the hundreds of thousands killed in Iraq, at the hands of our countrymen and on the orders of the politicians we allow to lead us?
Our troops may be home, but our weapons are still being used. The killing goes on. Civilians in Iraq are being killed at the rate of four Paris massacres a day – over 350 in the first week of January this year alone.
One in five Iraqis has lost at least one close family member since the Coalition invasion into their country to ‘liberate’ them.
Where are our tears for the mothers and fathers who have lost their children? For the children who have lost their parents?
That’s 3 million children whose lives have been shattered and thousands of others who have died in bombing, shelling or caught in the crossfire of our own weapons of mass destruction used in the name of freedom.
We were not defending ourselves. We started it. And on paper-thin lies in the name of our society’s religion of shopping centres, money and the oil we use to power our everyday lives.
We’ve lost thousands of our own in this inferno of violence. But remember: for every soldier killed on our side, one thousand civilians have died in Iraq. Mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, daughters, sons…
And we cry out now that Islam is a violent religion? That these people are a threat against us? That we are freeing them from an evil ideology?
Can we really say our way of doing things is better, having wrecked such slaughter in a country that posed no threat to us at all?
For a death toll of so many on the orders of politicians who illegally kidnap, torture and then lie about it? On the orders of our leaders who try to cover up child abuse amongst their own?
We spend billions killing those so far away to make their lives better (we are told) while not having care enough for the poverty and injustice we see in our own streets.
Is this the better way of doing things that we are bringing with our better ideology, our democracy, as we call it? I often struggle to see that we are, let alone that it is worth killing so many to enforce it on others.
I cried last night for the families of those killed in Paris. I then cried for those killed in Iraq and the rest of the Middle East. The tears seemed unending as is their ongoing slaughter. And children are still being killed by US air strikes in a fight against terror that we created in the first place.
Who is the real terrorist here?
I cast my mind to how I would feel if I had lost my mother, or brother or even my daughter in an airstrike on my home. My thoughts were certainly not of peace, not that her death as collateral damage would be the unfortunate cost of my freedom.
In such a dreadful situation, I think all of us would unleash our darkest and deepest anger at such a thing. Some might well swear to avenge the death of their child. Or others would. If you doubt me, perhaps remind yourself about how this country reacts to news stories of paedophiles. It’s not pleasant.
We don’t like to admit it, but we might feel violent rage to those who had done such a thing. We might strike back in any way we could, under any banner, under any excuse to avenge the killing of our children so callously. We might well want to create as much havoc and chaos as possible. We might see all on the other side as valid targets for our vengeance.
Whilst I have a deep faith that love, not white phosphorous, conquers all, it would be sorely tested if my loved ones were killed in such a way.
What if we dare to look away from the tragedy of what has happened in Paris, even briefly, through the eyes of those upon whom we have rained down such terror ourselves?
Might we get a sense of what drives the murderers to such ruthless atrocity?
More open eyes might start to see that it is not at its core about religion, it is not about ideology, it is probably not about cartoons.
It is about anger and about revenge. By any means possible.
To repay the hatred they feel for what we have done and continue to do in the name of a deathly, hollow freedom our violence has bestowed.
In many ways it’s a miracle we can live so peacefully and have not suffered more such attacks in our cities. The fact that so very many have not taken to avenge the deaths of their children, their wives, and their brothers is quite extraordinary.
Maybe we should look at things differently? Maybe we should look at what hate we created in the almost-religious zeal to secure the oil we all use so freely? And secured at such human cost to us all.
Sometimes love stands too quietly while evil seemingly triumphs. But love has a twin, in compassion. The ability we have for our hearts to reach out to others we do not know and have never met.
This is the divine in us. Let us leave aside our ideology, our religion (and those of others). Let us quieten our shouts of what is right and wrong for just one moment; and let our hearts go out to all have lost loved ones at the hands of terror in any form, anywhere.
Perhaps, then, the killing might stop.
Until that time, let us freely mourn our fellow man, woman or child. Let us shed tears for them: for those in Paris; for those in Iraq; for those killed around the world, every single day.
Each one is a tragedy. Each is one too many.