The French are united in memory of the martyred priest

The French are united in memory of the martyred priest

By Fr. Rif'at Bader

With joint Church and official events, the French state and Church have commemorated the first anniversary of the martyrdom of 85-year-old priest Jacques Hamel whose throat was slit by two young people. The first event took place when Archbishop of Rouen Dominique Lebrun celebrated Mass at the Church of Saint Etienne-du-Rouvray, the same church where the priest was praying a year ago and at the same time when he was martyred.

Furthermore, French President Emmanuel Macron unveiled a memorial stone, with Archbishop of Rouen Dominique Lebrun French President Emmanuel Macron which showed 30 articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The president also delivered a historic speech marking this anniversary. He said: “By killing Father Hamel at the foot of the altar, the two terrorists sought to sow a thirst for revenge and retaliation among Catholics in France. But they failed.” He added: “Every religion has a role to play to ensure that hatred will never win.” He asserted that”the martyred priest was not wasted since with his death he managed to make us loyal to all the targeted values."

After all, we react to this Memorial Day by stating:

First: The priest has left this earthly life in a brutal way, at a time when the Vatican is getting ready to canonize him so as to add him to the list of saints as well as the martyrs of the 20th and 21st centuries to whom a special church was built in one of suburbs of Rome. The Church does highly honor its martyrs by canonizing them so as to set a model for future generations.

Second, this anniversary was an opportunity for reconciliation between the state and the Church since French presidents rarely participate in a particular celebration that concerns religion or Church based on the fact that the secular constitution completely separates one from the other. The peculiarity of this event indicates that the abhorrent terrorism does not draw a line separating religion from life for all victims are directly targeted. The attack perpetrated on an 85-year-old cleric is also an aggression against the prestige of the French state where many of its citizens have been victims of violent terrorism.

Third: This incident has united Muslims with Christians particularly in France, where Muslim figures attended the marked anniversary and insisted on denouncing terrorism because it does not represent religion. It was an opportunity throughout France to undertake major initiatives that urge unity and harmony, foremost of which is the integration into a citizenship that engulfs everyone despite diversity.

The mayor of Paris, who was present at the marked anniversary, said that he is considering with the beginning of the next school year (in September)a plan to carry out educational activities with schoolchildren by having them visit this memorial site so that they will learn the principles of human rights, the most important of which is the human right to life, to religion, and to mutual respect.

Consequently, following every crisis that engulfs our society, we have to think of educational programs that serve the young generations, and ensure that they do not miss the opportunity of benefiting from the lessons of life, despite being sometimes bitter.

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