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Carcassonne terrorist attack: a Christian response

April 2018

Lieutenant-Colonel Arnaud Beltrame

Terrorism has hit again! Since Friday 23rd March, France has been in shock. The attack in Carcassonne and Trèbes left four people dead and many injured physically and psychologically. The French are sad, angry and indignant.
As Christians, how should we react? What thoughts should guide us?

  •  Today we want to weep with those who weep (Rom 12.15). We want to pray for those who suffer the loss of a loved one. We want to pray for them to find their consolation in God.
  •  “Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all”(Romans 12:17). While the anger and indignation is overwhelming, let us remember these lessons and pray for the suffering family of the terrorist. Let us pray for the Muslim community, knowing that they too are suffering. Not all Muslims are terrorists. Torn between the murderous ideology of Islamist terrorists and a society that regularly asks them to publicly dissociate themselves from these acts, even when they have nothing to do with them, French Muslims today live in a complex situation.
  •   Many people have asked me about the effect of this kind of event upon our ministry. While Christians may be more afraid of radical Islam, our Muslim friends are actually more open than ever to the Gospel.
    God is sovereign! He is never surprised by the events of our lives and he knows what He is doing. It is he who is able to transform evil into good by opening the eyes and hearts of all those who do not yet know him. In this Easter week we remember, as Christians, the dramatic and generous act of Christ. God is still speaking. We must hear the message again…
  •   Her name is Julie, she is forty, has a husband and a little girl. Because she couldn’t find a job in line with her qualifications, she worked as a cashier in a supermarket for over a year. This is the lady with whom 44-year-old Lieutenant-Colonel Arnaud Beltrame voluntarily exchanges place. He knows that the terrorist’s intention is to “kill people in uniform”. The terrorist has already killed three people, and his morbid, suicidal determination does not suggest anything good. Arnaud is almost certainly doomed. But he doesn’t hesitate. The rest is history. Julie, keeping her cool, remained a long time under the threat of a weapon held at the back of her neck. Today, she is miraculously alive and well, while another woman grieves the loss of her beloved, the man she was to marry in a few weeks’ time. Julie said, “He gave his life for me, he was killed so that I could live.”One word has been heard repeatedly since the announcement of Beltrame’s death: sacrifice. Tributes include terms such as hero, admiration, respect, example, generosity, commitment, service… His gesture astonishes and challenges. It drives us to consider the most fundamental questions of life and death. For Christians, Beltrame’s sacrifice recalls that of Christ, the mediator between God and men. For millions, Lt. Col. Arnaud Beltrame is a hero, but to the female survivor he willingly swapped places with, he is much more. He is a saviour. This is also what every Christian feels about Jesus. He gave his life so that we could live – we who were his enemies. “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friend” (John 15:13). Jesus suffered the punishment of death in our place. “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5: 8). What an extraordinary source of hope in the midst of darkness! And how wonderful that the Lord is using for good what others intended only for evil. At this time when France pays tribute to the heroic gesture of Arnaud Beltrame, we must also remember that this sad event, in which violence and nobility mingle, speaks to us of the One who has also volontarily exchanged places with condemned men and women in order to save them, except that his was a planned death. « The Son of God loved me and gave himself for me » (Galatians 2:20). Let us never forget the price of our salvation!
  •    The Carcassonne-Trèbes drama forces us to face the inevitable reality of death, and the great questions of life. The terrorist obeys a suicidal logic, in contrast to Arnaud Beltrame, who gives his life to protect others. In both cases, there is an encounter with death. The terrorist, fascinated and hypnotized by death, seems to be looking for it, for others and for himself… while Arnaud engages his life to defend another life, in a dynamic of giving and grace … We are here at the extremes of a torn reality between darkness and light.
  •   The terrorists want to put France on her knees … They will succeed only in putting Christians on their knees in prayer for France! Islamist extremism, whatever its roots, must be fought in prayer, love and the power of our Christian witness. Let us therefore not be paralyzed by fear or animated by hatred, at a time when assumptions and speculation of all kinds are counter-productive and dangerous. Pray then for France and also pray for our enemies!
  •   Our hope is in the new heavens and the new earth. Until then, we will continue to live in a world stained by sin. But we want to reassure ourselves by clinging to God’s glorious promises to us in his Son:  He “will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away”(Revelation 21.4).

Hicham

Carcassonne