By Archbishop Colin Johnson
The violence and loss of life that we witnessed in Ottawa on Oct. 22 was despicable and tragic. I join with others across Ontario and the rest of Canada in expressing my sorrow and deepest sympathy to the families of Corporal Nathan Cirillo, who was killed at our National War Memorial in Ottawa, and Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent, who was killed in an attack in Quebec on Oct. 20. We offer our prayers in the aftermath of these traumatic events for our Members of Parliament and their staff, for our Canadian Forces personnel – particularly our Chaplains – and for those who ensure our safety. We pray, too, for those being tempted to embrace radical extremism, that they may be led to a better, life-giving hope.
When the symbol of our national life and those who commit their lives to maintain our rights and freedoms are attacked, we are deeply shaken. In the aftermath of this tragedy, I pray that we will respond in a calm and measured way, in spite of our natural desire to act quickly and forcefully. The aim of many terrorists is to instil fear and disrupt the society they despise, and we need to avoid falling into the trap of retaliation out of our own legitimate sense of fear and anxiety.
Fear will lock us behind fortress doors and make us suspicious of our neighbour. Fear can strangle the life out of community. Terrorism wins when fear and mistrust prevail. As people of faith in Jesus Christ, we are called to face our fears resolutely, embrace life fully, and then act with courageous hope and compassionate service. We witnessed that exemplified in the ordinary citizens who responded in selfless ways in Ottawa on Wednesday, to aid and protect others even at their own peril.
In a free society, we value our access to our public institutions and our ability to engage with them openly; that leaves us vulnerable to attack. But those are values that we must preserve, even as we act to protect them.
In the midst of this, it is especially important for us as people of faith to guard against ourselves, and to counter others, who blame other religious traditions because of the violence of certain adherents to extremist expressions of those faiths. We cannot attribute to Islam the egregious behaviour of a few people who claim to be true Muslims. The people who perpetrate these acts of violence are no more representative of the faithful Muslim community than Christians who perpetrate violence in the name of Christ are good representatives of Jesus Christ. They may claim to act in the name of God, but they have publicly broken the Commandment against taking the name of God in vain.
May I commend to you the prayer “For the Nation” from the Book of Alternatives Services, 1985:
Almighty God, you have given us this good land as our
heritage. May we prove ourselves a people mindful of your
generosity and glad to do your will. Bless our land with honest
industry, truthful education, and an honourable way of life.
Save us from violence, discord, and confusion; from pride and
arrogance; and from every evil course of action. Make us who
came from many nations with many different languages a
united people. Defend our liberties and give those whom we
have entrusted with the authority of government the spirit of
wisdom, that there may be justice and peace in our land. When
times are prosperous, let our hearts be thankful; and, in
troubled times, do not let our trust in you fail. We ask this
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The Most Reverend Colin R. Johnson,
Archbishop of Toronto and of Moosonee,
Metropolitan of Ontario