Tragedy in Nice

Yesterday’s tragedy in Nice has brought the usual wave of condemnations by world leaders — and the usual wave of those wanting to talk about violence in Kashmir or Palestine or wherever the writer feels the lack of the world’s attention, as though grieving for one made it impossible to grieve for the other. The truth is, every violent death is a tragedy; and we grieve all men, women and children murdered by human malice wherever they may be. But France is close, and many of us have walked along the Promenade des Anglais or taken part in 14 July celebrations. It is therefore easier for us to identify with what happens there than it is with countries we may not have visited or lived in. However, if our identification goes no deeper than mere sentiment, I think we are missing the point.

Almost anything can be used to kill — in this case, a truck or lorry — but it requires the intervention of human thought and intention to turn that vehicle into an instrument of destruction. If, as is currently being suggested, the perpetrator of the Nice attack was some sort of Islamist terrorist, we are again confronted with our failure to combat Jihadist ideology with any powerful ideology of our own. There are times when it seems we would rather be quiescent than confront such a perversion of human values. I say human advisedly, because I think one of our biggest mistakes is to take Islamist propaganda at face value. It is not zeal for God that motivates such murderers but lust for destruction, to which religion gives a superficially acceptable cover. Wringing our hands and talking limply about Islam being a religion of peace will achieve nothing because it does not touch the root of the problem. The root of the problem is human anger, human grievance, the human desire to be something in a world where, by and large, one is perceived as nothing.

This morning, as we pray for those killed or injured in Nice, perhaps we could also spend some time reflecting on the origins of violence, in ourselves as well as others. What makes us angry? What do we use to justify our anger? How does our religious belief (if we have any) bolster or undermine our justification of our own conduct? The brutality of IS shows what happens when all restraints are shrugged off in the illusory pursuit of a religious ‘purity’ that cannot be. Are we consumed with a similar zeal? It may not be religious purity we are after, but is there something else that drives us and maybe threatens to wreck other people’s lives as well as our own?

Bro Duncan PBGV
Bro Duncan PBGV, a.k.a. Ch. Soletrader Dunc’n Disorderly, was put to sleep yesterday morning after a brief illness. I intend to write a blog post about him sometime in the next few days. He was 5 when he came to us. Anyone who has photos of him in his younger days which they would allow me to use, please get in touch.


16 thoughts on “Tragedy in Nice”

  1. Thanks you for your perspective on the Nice tragedy, I am taken on how little others respect life. I worry about the children all of them .

  2. I think there’s a deep well of hatred in many of us, and you are right to advise self-reflection. I was particularly struck this morning in other contexts seeing two instances of the use of the word “ignorant” as an insulting term. We’re all ignorant. Let’s learn not to insult, even if it’s “only” on social media. I believe all these things are part of the same pattern.

    And I’m so sorry about Bro Duncan.

  3. Dear Sister Catherine
    Thank you so much for your words which make us reflect as always. Thank you for your work as digital nun. I follow you daily on Twitter and your words always bring comfort and perspective while challenging us to look hard at ourselves. I find myself shouting to God this morning, “where are you?”
    I am also so sad to hear about bro Duncan whose voice I loved to hear on Twitter , may all Gods creatures, human and animal rest in peace and may he bring peace to those who mourn them.

  4. Will miss bro Duncan’s wisdom and perspective. Thanks for sharing him with us. Praying for your loss of him.

  5. I am sorry too for the passing of Bro. Dunc’n but fear not for you will see him again. For I cannot believe that the Deer we eat, the dog we love, the little bird that sings to us from the nearby tree are not also loved by God and with their passing are not also taken to His abode. Rest in piece, Duncan is surely there too.

  6. Br. Duncan was a true humanitarian and a beloved part of your community. I will miss his words of wisdom. So sorry for your loss.

  7. Such large sorrow for the lives lost and completely changed by this tragedy. I so appreciate your words of grief and understanding.
    And for Bro Duncan….a deep loss….he was such a loving companion and spokes-dog and I will miss his gentle, warm presence.

  8. So very sorry over your loss of community and family member, Bro Duncan. I know how much it hurts to lose a 4 legged friend and companion. We will all miss him!

  9. Reason seems to have left so many of us living in the world. Moderation, empathy, understanding and compassion have seemingly vanished. The wonder of instant knowledge and so much information being available to so many seems to have reduced us to our worst selves instead of our best selves. I pray your wisdom is shared widely and gently over the countryside. And I wish for you peace in the face of grief of the loss of your good companion.

  10. “The root of the problem is human anger, human grievance, the human desire to be something in a world where, by and large, one is perceived as nothing.”

    Your comment is spot on. The question is how to address it. We can look inside ourselves to find where our own anger comes from, and where the self-righteousness arises, but how do we actually address the issue of human beings feeling that the world at large perceives them as nothing? I wish I knew the answer …..

  11. Thank you for your thoughtful post.

    I am so sad to hear about Bro.Duncan. Animals have a way of getting into our hearts, quite unlike the way humans do. My neighbour’s young cat was killed on a quiet country road on Thursday and we feel her loss. I hope that there will be another monastery dog sometime in the future.

  12. Thank you for your wise and poignant words – very thought provoking. The dangers we face when we let go of love and we let go our our humanity.
    As Brother Duncan said, we must be better human beans.
    Love and prayers for your, your community and for Brother Duncan – may he rest in peace and rise in Glory.

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