I was 17 years old when I first visited Paris on a high school choir trip. Before we left, I was told over and over that the Parisians did not like Americans. I was told to be prepared for them to be rude and mean.
That wasn’t my experience. In fact, it was just the opposite of what I experienced there.
Everywhere I went, Parisians went out of their way to help me. They were kind. They were warm. They were compassionate.
Sure, the city was beautiful and historically rich, but it wasn’t the Eiffel Tower or Notre Dame Cathedral that made me want to return to the city. It was the people who treated me as though I was one of them.
They were Paris.
It was not the tourist attractions that ISIS attacked: it was Parisians themselves. Folks eating dinner. Music-lovers taking in a concert. Fans attending a soccer match. ISIS wanted to instill fear, and that goal was accomplished.
Now, the retaliation has begun. New airstrikes. Blind anger at any Muslim. Fear of the unknown has replaced any attempt to embrace the other. None of it will make us safer.
Religious violence has been with us since the time the walls of Jericho came tumbling down. We seem to not know how to love God without killing each other. The terrorists cried, “God is great” as they killed the innocent. It is a cry we have come to expect. I just hope we are not prone to respond, “Our God is greater.”
Surely the God we worship can help us find a path to peace. Embracing those who are not like me gives me a chance to see the full richness of God.
I pray we will not retreat to “an eye for an eye.” We know already that will make the whole world blind.