My homeland, France, is rightfully angry and rightfully ready to wage war on terrorists — after the deplorable acts of violence committed against our people.
At the same time, I am concerned that we are rallying around the wrong values, that we are taking a stand in the name of free speech by supporting speech devoid of temperance and love — the kind of love the apostle Paul urges us to show in Ephesians 4:15
as we speak truth.
An unprecedented 4 million people took to the streets of Paris and cities across the country on a recent Sunday, denouncing brutal murders by Islamic extremists. Signs with the words “Je suis Charlie” (“I am Charlie”) popped up everywhere — from government buildings to mosques.
The signs reference the French satirical publication Charlie Hebdo
, which published inflammatory cartoons of the prophet Muhammad that were insulting to Muslims.
On Jan. 7, two gunmen entered the magazine’s offices and killed 12 people — cartoonists, editors, police officers, even a maintenance worker. More attacks followed, including a hostage-taking at a Kosher grocery store that ended in the deaths of four hostages.
VIEWS | Philippe Dauner
In addition to denouncing the violence, the marches reaffirmed the French people’s strong belief in freedom of speech — one of the cornerstones of our constitution.
Soon after, Charlie Hebdo published its “survivors’ issue” — featuring yet another caricature of Muhammad on the cover — and sold millions of copies almost instantly.
In its lead editorial, the publication bragged that the number of people who marched in Paris far exceeded any church service.
“For the past week, Charlie, an atheist newspaper, has achieved more miracles than all the saints and prophets combined,” the editors wrote, referencing the publication’s unifying effect on the French people.
Christiane Taubira, our Minister of Justice, said at a ceremony for one of the cartoonists that, in the homeland of “Voltaire and irreverence, we have the right to laugh at all religions.”
Mockery might be a legal right in France, but when has it ever been a moral right? Have we forgotten the destructive power of words — or drawings, in this case?
Mockery is incompatible with a Christian worldview. In Romans 14
, Paul tells us that we shouldn’t use our freedom to “put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister.”
Actually, Charlie Hebdo’s nose-thumb toward Muhammad holds the real response to the terrorist attacks.
The cover shows the prophet holding a “Je suis Charlie” sign with the words “Tout est pardonné” (“All is forgiven”) above him. A writer for the weekly said the cover means that the publication’s workers forgive the extremists for the attack.
“It is not the cover that the world wanted us to do,” said Renald Luzier, the cartoonist.
Forgiveness — supported by a courageous stand against sin and hate — is the key. It was the Father’s answer to us when we waged unlimited war against Heaven.
While France mourns 17 deaths, thousands of Christ-followers in the Middle East suffer at the hands of the Islamic State, evicted from their homes, tortured and killed for their refusal to deny Christ. In northern Nigeria, countless Christians — and Muslims — are suffering at the hands of Boko Haram
Recently I saw an interview from Lebanon with Iraqi Christian refugees whose families were slaughtered and homes were destroyed by the militants.
They could have said plenty about how their rights have been violated.
Instead, they prayed for their persecutors. That’s what Jesus taught them, and they were faithful to that difficult calling.
The church in France — and throughout the world — must show that same spirit, and trust in God’s mercy. Please pray with us for the victims’ families, for the people responsible, for our political leaders and for the repentance and salvation of all of my countrymen.
Philippe Dauner, a French national, is a missionary who works with the Church of Christ in Marseilles, France.