Dear friends,

At this time of Remembrance with All Souls on 2nd November and Remembrance Sunday on 11th November always makes me wondering about this world that we live in.

We can in our lives think that the little things that get us down and upset are important, but… are they really? What would we feel if we had had a row over breakfast with our loved ones and then found that we could not say sorry to them as they had been killed? Why do we get so upset over the small difficulties in life when we can seem at times to totally ignore the bigger picture?

Jesus says ‘you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” ‘(Mark 12:30-31. NRSV).

I have been struck that we often do not seem to take these words to heart, and struggle to even like our neighbour, let alone love them. However, the open letter from Antoine Leiris, which directly addressed the terror gang who gunned down his wife Hélène Muyal-Leiris in the Paris (November 13th, 2015) shooting really hit home for me, and so I would like to share this here with you just in case you missed it, or if you have forgotten what was said.

On Friday night you stole the life of an exceptional being, the love of my life, the mother of my son, but you won’t have my hatred. I don’t know who you are and I don’t want to know – you are dead souls. If this God for which you kill indiscriminately made us in his own image, every bullet in the body of my wife will have been a wound in his heart.

So no, I don’t give you the gift of hating you. You are asking for it but responding to hatred with anger would be giving in to the same ignorance that made you what you are.

You want me to be afraid, to view my fellow countrymen with mistrust, to sacrifice my freedom for security. You have lost. I saw her this morning. Finally, after many nights and days of waiting. She was just as beautiful as when she left on Friday night, just as beautiful as when I fell hopelessly in love over 12 years ago.

Of course I’m devastated with grief, I admit this small victory, but it will be short-lived. I know she will accompany us every day and that we will find ourselves in this paradise of free souls to which you’ll never have access. We are two, my son and I, but we are stronger than all the armies of the world. I don’t have any more time to devote to you, I have to join Melvil who is waking up from his nap. He is barely 17-months-old. He will eat his meals as usual, and then we are going to play as usual, and for his whole life this little boy will threaten you by being happy and free. Because no, you will not have his hatred either.

This open letter also then reminded me of another great act of forgiveness: William Ury wrote in his 1999 book, ‘The Third Side’ about the peace campaigner Gordon Wilson (25th September 1927 – 27th June 1995).

In an interview with the BBC, Wilson described with anguish his last conversation with his daughter and his feelings toward her killers: “She held my hand tightly, and gripped me as hard as she could. She said, ‘Daddy, I love you very much.’ Those were her exact words to me, and those were the last words I ever heard her say.” To the astonishment of listeners, Wilson went on to add, “But I bear no ill will. I bear no grudge. Dirty sort of talk is not going to bring her back to life. She was a great wee lassie. She loved her profession. She was a pet. She’s dead. She’s in heaven and we shall meet again. I will pray for these men tonight and every night.”

As historian Jonathan Bardon recounts, “No words in more than twenty-five years of violence in Northern Ireland had such a powerful, emotional impact.”

Let us all then remember that in this world that we live in we can all make a difference, and we can and should make this world a better place to live in.

Yours in Christ