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Updated: Nov 18, 2019

Fear - light your own candle

Like you, I watched the scenes of terror unfold in Paris recently. Like you, I wept and wondered what horrific internal fractures drive people to treat the lives of others, and their own lives also, so callously. Like you, I’ve been angry at the destruction of the world we live in and my mind has spun in circles at the whirlwind of accusations.

Because our default is blame! When disaster strikes, especially with such intentionality as terrorism does, the easiest option is look for someone (else) to blame.

I’ve read posts and articles, heard interviews and opinions in which the entire Muslim world is being blamed for what happened on that beautiful, carefree Paris night. The problem with blaming a religion for the acts of insane people is that our own capacity to think sanely becomes severely challenged as we buy into the fear generated by the atrocities. Fear grips our hearts and confuses our thinking and we make enemies of ordinary people who are just trying to live their lives in peace, like we are.

And that’s the master plan behind every terrorist attack.

To divide and conquer.

Attacking Muslims because of terrorist activity is our worst option. When people are put in a position where they must defend themselves and their innocence against ignorant and angry rhetoric, anything can happen. Hear what President Obama has to say about that here.

ISIL has a scurrilous plan, which is to turn the world against itself. Their weapon of mass destruction is fear. Their goal is to cause deep, gaping bloody wounds of hate and rejection between ordinary people at an everyday society level which is why they’re taking the battle out of the warzone and into our streets.

The plan goes even further because the ensuing mayhem formed by mindless hatred and fear creates a vacuum for groups ISIL and others to gain strength and influence. And when we buy into the fear, accusation and rejection, we become like our enemy. Check it out

Make no mistake. Our enemy is not a religious or racial group. Our enemy is fear. When we give into fear, both personally and corporately, any horror becomes possible. Given enough provocation, fear can cause us to believe the most outrageous lies about our neighbours, family, friends and enemies, most of which have no basis in reality.

The world has gone this way before. In 1994, brewing tensions burst into flame in the tiny African nation of Rwanda. In the space of 100 days, an estimated 1 million Tutsis were slaughtered by their Hutu neighbours. These had been communities of people living in peace with each other, friends who worked and played together and minded each other’s children, until suddenly, almost overnight, fear rose to choke the life out of communities, and friends became bitter enemies. The damage done has taken all these 20 years to repair.

Or if Africa is too far removed from your thinking, cast your mind back to Nazi Germany and the fear mongering that caused good, godly people to close their eyes to the genocide of around 11 million people over the course of 12 years.

If you think that violence and horrific acts of bloodshed are confined to Muslims, do some research on the Crusaders of the 12th and 13th centuries. In the name of Christianity, knights supposedly seeking the mythical Holy Grail plundered and raped their way across the Middle East, leaving a trail of devastation behind them.

Or the good Baptist slave owners in the plantations of America’s deep south, who went to church and sang hymns to their great and merciful God on Sundays, and the rest of the week tortured, maimed, raped and abused their slaves with impunity.

John Donne wrote:

No man is an island, Entire of itself, Every man is a piece of the continent, A part of the main…
Any man’s death diminishes me, Because I am involved in mankind, Therefore, never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee.

The bell that Donne refers to is the funeral bell, announcing death in the community. That bell is ringing loud and long now, and we hear it in every nation.

We are afraid of the sound of death, and death on a massive scale is even more terrifying, but there are many worse things than death. One of them is to deny the integrity of the values we have said we stand for. None of us can ever truly know what we believe until it is tested.

Our societies are being tested right now. You personally are being tested and so am I. Our humanity and our capacity to care and heal and restore are terrifyingly under threat. We get compassion fatigue – yes, that’s a real thing.

Fear rises on every side and challenges our ability to act like human beings, but giving into fear will unleash the tsunami of horror that has already broken over so many other nations. When fear is allowed to run free, good people find themselves capable of the grossest and most heinous acts, things no one would ever never have believed they were capable of doing.

The world is changed. We can’t go back. We can’t just refuse to accept the changes. It is irresponsible politics to just bar the doors and go into lock-down mode. It’s overwhelmingly callous and arrogant to try to leave the problems with the nations who are already overloaded, or try to push them off to developing countries.

We must find solutions, and the solutions can’t just be ‘don’t let them in’ any more than we can refuse the flood when a river bursts its banks. The water has to go somewhere. These people have to go somewhere.

Recently an erstwhile Australian leader addressed a conference with such an oxy moron that it’s a wonder he wasn’t embarrassed by himself as we all were. He informed his audience that the tenets which have made our society great, that of loving our neighbour, were not relevant under these circumstances and no matter how much our consciences gnawed at us, we must live in total contradiction of what we say we believe. The inference was that in doing so, we would continue to be great! Find the logic in that! I was unable to. Read it here.

The shortsightedness of those who peddle ignorance, fear and mercilessness as a political tactic is remarkable to me. Are not these people thinking of what happens when you tar every member of a certain religion or race with the same brush? Full-scale civil war becomes a possibility. The terrorist attacks in France were perpetrated by the very same people the refugees are undertaking such desperate action in order to escape from.

Let us be different to the terrorists, those evil activists whose intention is to change how we live our lives. People in concentrations camps and people who are enslaved and abused have shown themselves to be capable of the greatest acts of heroism and courage and selflessness and care. We don’t need to be in such a situation in order to rise to the humanity that is ours. We are not helpless victims of our circumstances. We all have the option of choosing nobility, decency, goodness, kindness, courage, and love in action, no matter what the provocation. Read how one man chose a better response.

We generally can’t choose our battles. They come to us unbidden. Devastation arrives suddenly, whether it’s illness or financial loss or family breakdown or being driven from our homes and having to walk with our little children and our old people across the borders of multiple nations with just what we can carry, or get into leaky, overcrowded boats to take our chances between drowning, terrorism or survival.

Empathy is a characteristic of the human condition but one that can be suffocated, should we choose. We can deny it and shut our eyes to the need.

Or we can choose not to fear, choose not to hate, choose to look for ways to show our humanity. The deep awareness that comes with maturity (as opposed to old age) is to be aware, as John Donne so powerfully wrote, that we are not our own little island but all of us are part of something so much bigger than ourselves.

No one believes it will be easy. The problems facing every nation as a result of the refugee crisis are terrifying in themselves, but as we deliberately choose to look for our own roles in finding a solution to help our global family, rather than ignore them and hope they will go away … somewhere, solutions will be found. And our changed world will change again… and maybe for the better, if better people are the result of better choices.


We belong to the human race. We are all we have. When some of us are destroyed the effect of that destruction reaches all of us, whether we know it or not. Fear mongering is the weapon of terrorists but love is the antidote.

We all have a choice.

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