Vive La France

Like me, many of you would have, been shocked, indeed horrified, to witness, via the media, the bloody carnage that took place on the Promenade de Anglais in Nice on the evening of July 14th, Bastille Day, the day that marks the beginning of a Revolution that was meant to set people free from tyranny. A day marked this year by a new kind of tyranny, one that stems from an evil ideology which messes with people's heads in the name of religion, and promotes its cause by mercilessly killing innocent people. My wife and I have strolled along that same Promenade quite a few times when visiting Nice its somewhere of meaning to us and so what happened had a very real and personal impact on our feelings. Then, just as I was writing this article, the news was breaking of the brutal and cowardly murder of an 85 year old priest in Normandy, his throat cut during mass by so called jihadis, an act regarded as sacrilege by all people of faith and yet perpetrated by men who say they are fighting ,a holy war. This terrible act has provoked not only a sense of profound shock amongst the people of France and throughout the international Christian community, but has I also inflamed further anti-Muslim feeling in the 'public space', which is of course just what the jihadists want!

We are told these acts have been carried out because France has taken part in the recent air strikes in Syria, being fully involved in the international effort to overcome 'ISIL', is slaughtering the innocent a legitimate response in France or anywhere else in Europe? Ironic isn't it, that France, a nation that prides itself on its national ideals based on 'Liberty, Equality and Fraternity', ideals which it has always fiercely defended, not just for its own citizens but all incomers, should now suffer these recent outrages.

Feelings apart, what's this got to do with us, didn't we just vote to leave the European Community? For a start we are joined by a tunnel and whatever Individuals may think there has always been a closeness between our two Nations, an 'entente cordiale' that has largely remained intact and saw us fight two World Wars together - what has been happening in France could so easily happen here or elsewhere amongst our European neighbours. All this at a time when social and political commentators are increasingly identifying a general malaise that is effecting the whole of Western Society. People are restless, democracy, as we know it, is in trouble; many feel 'the system' no longer works for them, globalised trade and the international corporations have taken away what individual's see as control of their own lives; there is anger too, of the kind that leads to the rise of people like Donald Trump and Marine Le Pen on the right-or other politicians just as dangerous on the left. Finding some way of dealing with so common a feeling of dissent should become the central concern of mainstream politics, before 'rampant popularism' overwhelms us all; first it was the referendum and Brexit, what next? Politicians at home and abroad have all too often been-so busy trying to cling on to or gain 'power' they have forgotten the needs of ordinary men and women. Our new Prime, Minister has been all too willing to acknowledge this, accepting that we live in a society riven by deep divisions and inequalities. She is a person of faith, her Dad was after all a Vicar! I hope and pray -that same faith which she not only grew up with, but still practices, will inspire her to do good things for our country. For secular society, 'Liberty, Equality and Fraternity' are of course- excellent values as the basis for a good and just nation; add the Christian proclamation to this, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, then the result is a heady, indeed revolutionary, political mix, strong enough to change individuals and whole nations. - but then I would say that, I am a Vicar, when all is said and done!

So let's not forget our neighbours across the channel, we pray for those who have died and all who have been effected in anyway by these recent tragic - events, we pray for a fresh resolve to remain united in our solidarity and determination to overcome terrorism in any shape and form and vigorously defend those principles for which the men and women of both our nations fought so hard in the past.

Your friend and priest, 

Father Keith