The shrines across Paris, the iconic buildings of the world lit in the colours of the French Tricolour, the minutes of silence that have been observed and some of the symbols that have emerged on social media are testimony to the outrage, sorrow and respect that civilized people everywhere are feeling.
They are testimony, too, to the inadequacy of words and the need to establish a new language or common currency in which to express our deepest feelings. Strangely, the selfie sticks are not out of place at the recently made shrines; it is important for people to have proof that they were there, proof of solidarity with neighbour as well as stranger. Proof that we are all brothers and sisters together.Although words are inadequate in the immediacy of the moment, in due time we have to return to them and use them carefully as we try to find a response that can move us forward.
For me among the most valuable comments came in the very first hours of the crisis as Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, tweeted on Friday evening as follows:
Tragic Paris, desperate news of deep tragedy, with heart break for so many. We weep with those affected, pray for deliverance and justice.
Of course there will be many who find any notion of prayer in such circumstances either impossible or derisory, but for those who seek to find God in the midst of such bewilderment, the suggestion that we pray for deliverance is a profound one.
‘Deliver us from evil’ is a phrase familiar to many because it is one of the petitions in the Lord’s Prayer – the, Our Father, the prayer Jesus taught his followers.
And to deliverance from evil, we might add also, ‘Deliver us from fear’. Scripture tells us that perfect love casts out fear, but the opposite is true as well – perfect fear casts out love. So we need to be delivered from fear.
The pictures of Parisians coming together and trying in some way to absorb the reality of what their city and fellow citizens have suffered cannot fail to move us. They present us with scenes in which cynicism has no possible place; scenes in which it might be possible to say that the participants have been delivered from evil and delivered from fear.