November 27, 2015

Reflection / Sean Gallagher

Work with God’s help to foster solidarity in the face of terror

The Islamic State militants that carried out horrifying terrorist attacks in Paris on Nov. 13 intended, at least in part, to rip apart the ties of human solidarity. They wanted to foster and carry on a great conflict that divides humanity between, in their eyes, true believers and infidels.

And indeed, there are conflicts all around our Earth in which people are set against each other and where violence rules. This has tragically been the case since the dawn of humanity when Cain raised his hand against his brother Abel.

But God did not create a world to be ruled by the principle that might makes right. He foresaw from all eternity a world in which people were to live in love and harmony with him, each other and creation as a whole. Adam and Eve’s original sin shattered this harmony in ways that continue to reverberate today.

But in sending us Jesus, his Son, God gave us the means to overcome conflict and division. God’s original plan in its fullness won’t be restored until Christ comes again. But he calls us to advance this harmony here and now with the power that his ever-present grace gives to us.

Despite the vicious attacks in Paris that sought to divide people even further, the harmony that God intended in creating the human race was soon on display as people around the world showed their solidarity with the suffering people of France.

Famous buildings and monuments around the world were bathed in the colors of the French flag. That flag was carried into football and basketball stadiums across the country alongside the American flag. And people around the world changed their profile photo on Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms to show their solidarity with the French people.

This show of unity in the wake of the attacks, however, may have been attributed as much to the fact that Paris is much like the cities in which so many other people in the developed western world live, as to the nature of the attack itself.

For on the day before the attacks in Paris, two Islamic State suicide bombers killed 40 people in Beirut. In response to that, though, I didn’t see people rushing to put the flag of Lebanon on social media profile photos.

Our embrace of those who suffer needs to be widened. The unjust victims of violence wherever it occurs are lovingly held in the compassionate hands of God. But he empowers us to be tangible and visible instruments of that compassion to people who bear the burden of injustice and war.

We can do this through supporting Catholic Relief Services (, the U.S. bishops’ international aid agency, or supporting or volunteering for the Refugee Immigration Services office of Catholic Charities Indianapolis ( The former helps victims of violence and natural disasters where they live around the world. The latter helps settle in Indianapolis international refugees, such as people fleeing from ethnic and religious persecution in Myanmar.

Prayer, of course, is a means to foster solidarity that cannot be ignored or downplayed. At times like this, increasing the harmony that God intended can seem impossible. And, through human means alone, it is.

But when we invoke God’s help in prayer, and cooperate daily with his grace, we contribute step by step to the restoration of his original vision for harmony among himself, humanity and all creation.

(Sean Gallagher is a reporter for The Criterion.)

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