As the full extent of the tragic aftermath of the indiscriminate brutality witnessed in Paris becomes more apparent, our thoughts and prayers continue to be with the families and loved ones of all who have lost their lives so tragically, and those who will continue to live with the injury and trauma suffered as a result of these horrific events.
These scenes of intentionally brutal and unmerciful violence around the world, most recently in Lebanon, Iraq, Turkey, Egypt and Syria, are becoming an all too familiar component of our daily lives, yet the effect of such inhumane acts against innocent individuals and families remains deeply traumatic and painful for all touched by them, both directly and indirectly.
Our world today has become full of such disregard for the sanctity and value of every human life, but as we have seen over the past days, the response of so many paying tribute to, and showing their support for and solidarity with, France shows that there is an inextinguishable mercy, hope and light at the heart of humanity as a whole that is capable of collectively overcoming any darkness faced.
We must never lose sight of the effectiveness of prayer, nor of the powerful impact that our collective acts of solidarity offer in confronting such evil and the fear it inevitably instils; for it is that goodness in the world that causes evil to be cast out. We must therefore remember that although the constantly-streaming news we see, hear and read points to a very bleak world filled with darkness, a powerful light continues to shine through the acts of brave and hopeful individuals and communities, propagating this hope further.
As Christians, we are given a very specific instruction in chapter 5 of the Gospel of Saint Matthew: "But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you..." because in so doing, we become true children of our Father in heaven. With this spirit, we pray for hearts bent on harm and destruction to be changed, a transition we ourselves are familiar with in the life of the great Saint Paul who started his life as Saul, persecutor of the early Church. We can never truly know when and how such acts of rampant violence will cease, but we pray for those who commit them to realise the full, wasteful and devastating impact of their actions on the lives of so many who bleed and mourn just as they do. We also pray that the pain, anger and resentment caused by these events do not corrupt good hearts or tear communities apart.
As families mourn the loss of loved ones in Paris, we pray that God gives comfort and peace to all who feel they have lost much. As so many around the world continue to suffer the effects of intolerance and an ever-narrowing perspective of some regarding who does and does not deserve to live, and as many seek refuge from persecution and war-torn regions, our prayers are also offered for them as they encounter such adversity and difficulty in striving for freedom and refuge.
May we never lose sight of the powerful and hope-filled message of Saint Paul himself to the Corinthians, that we are "...hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed..."
His Grace Bishop Angaelos is the General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom.