Yesterday’s dignified march in Paris following the tragic terrorist attacks in that city last week have had a huge impact throughout the world. Sadly, we have become desensitised to the violence of war owing to the conflicts in far away places being constantly reported by the media. But there is something “domestic” about premeditated killings in the editorial room of a satirical magazine and a local grocery store. These events might have taken place in any street in any city of the world.
The fact that they are portrayed as having a religious motivation is a double tragedy. Violence in the name of religion has no place in our world view. Freedom of expression is one of the key elements of a civilised democratic society. With that freedom must also come an acceptance of responsibilities. Is it possible to have satire without denigrating and shocking the deeply held views and beliefs of others? Part of the dignity of the human person is to respect the right of freedom of speech whilst always emphasising the responsibilities which it brings – even to institutions.
The Christian religion has had its fair share of satirical coverage in recent years, not least in our own country. At times this has been shocking and outrageous, and at times quite unfair. The way to deal with it is not violence or repression but honest argument and debate, with a shared desire for truth.The challenge facing all people, religious and non religious alike, is to create the environment and proper forums for such encounters. The Inter-Faith dialogues which go on between the Churches and other Faiths are one example of such communication. We need many more.
The thoughts and prayers of the people and clergy of the Archdiocese of Cardiff are with the victims of these attacks, their families, and the French people.