Our hearts break for Paris Print
Written by Mary Uhler   
Thursday, Nov. 19, 2015 -- 12:00 AM

When I heard about the terrorist bombings in Paris, my heart broke.

I visited Paris many years ago, and it is such a special city. It saddened me to hear that so many innocent people were killed and injured, apparently by three teams of Islamic State terrorists.

Although the French people had a reputation for being somewhat aloof, we found them to be friendly — especially when we spoke some French. Once we made the attempt to communicate with them, the Parisians usually spoke English with us.

Damage to historic places

But it was not only the loss of lives and the injuries that upset me. It was also the damage the terrorists might have caused to the city of Paris itself.

There are so many historic places in Paris, many of significance to the Catholic Church.


A note from people from Memphis, Tenn., is seen near the Bataclan music hall in Paris November 14, where about 100 people lost their lives in terrorist attacks.

(CNS photo/Paul Haring)

What if churches such as Notre Dame Cathedral or Sainte-Chapelle were attacked? And what a loss it would be if the Louvre Museum — which houses priceless art works — would be destroyed.

We know that terrorists have already been wrecking historic sites and treasures in other countries. We can never recover what they have demolished so ruthlessly.

Violence in name of religion

It is unconscionable that many of the terrorists are doing such violence in the name of religion.

There is debate whether the Islamic religion endorses violence. I checked English translations of the Qur’an and found that it prohibits aggression and allows fighting only in self-defense. However, some Islamic terrorists may consider their actions as defending themselves against what they see as aggression from others.

As Pope Francis has said, using God’s name to try to justify violence and murder is “blasphemy.” He said, “Such barbarity leaves us dismayed, and we ask ourselves how the human heart can plan and carry out such horrible events.”

The attacks, Pope Francis said, were an “unspeakable affront to the dignity of the human person.” He added, “The path of violence and hatred cannot resolve the problems of humanity, and using the name of God to justify this path is blasphemy.”

How do we respond?

So how do we respond to these terrorist actions? We must start with prayer. Pope Francis and other Church leaders have urged us to pray for those killed and injured in Paris.

We must also pray for efforts to bring peace to our world. A statement from the U.S. Catholic bishops voiced support for those “working to build just and peaceful societies.”

We have to be vigilant, because terrorists could strike anywhere, including in our own country. Yet we shouldn’t let the terrorists dictate our policies, including what military action we take or how we help refugees.

We are shocked, saddened, and angry about what happened in Paris, but hopefully the Paris attacks will bring people of the world together in solidarity as they work for peace.