Following Friday evening's terrorist attacks in Paris, The Salvation Army's world leader General André Cox has written these words to Salvationists and friends:
I find myself writing just hours after hearing, and observing through the media, the horrific terrorist attacks in Paris. Some of you will have seen my urgent call via twitter for Salvationists to join in prayer for all those terribly impacted by such senseless slaughter. I can only start and finish this brief message with the same call to prayer… pray long, and pray hard. I shall come back to this call.
I want to say that my purpose here is not to make political statements. Others are better placed and carry a particular responsibility to do just that. What I will say, and in doing so I add my voice to those of many leaders within the Christian faith the world over, please pray for political and national leaders. All of them, not just President Hollande and his team in France, but leaders in your country and mine.
National leadership is never easy. History shows that. These men and women need the faithful and continual prayers of the Church, regardless of our personal political persuasions. Whenever I meet with political leaders in any country I assure them of my personal prayers, and those of Salvationists in that country. It is important that they know of this.
And I exhort you today to pray, deeply, for the grace of God and the personal ministry of the Holy Spirit, to be felt and experienced, in some manner, by the hundreds of family members personally devastated by the senseless loss of life in these hours. Death comes to all, but how it comes and in what circumstances, can add layers of added grief and pain. These circumstances, wherein people were simply enjoying life and friendship on a Friday night, would have seemed the most unlikely for the terrible carnage which took place. The evil of terrorism reached into Parisian cafes and concert halls to strike its innocent victims.
And finally, in these few short paragraphs, I urge you to pray for the Church, the Body of Christ, of which our Salvation Army is a vital part. Pray that we will have the courage and the wisdom to fulfil our mission in these times, a mission given by Christ to be both proclaimers of his gospel and also ministers of his grace and love to all. To all… regardless of their culture, race or creed. We are brothers and sisters of one humanity. One humanity created, and loved, by God.
There will possibly be strong voices within the public sphere calling for vengeful retribution against those who had nothing to do with these atrocities. In some small way the voice of the Church, of you and I, can call for added grace and care in these days. We can bring light into the gloom.
Sometimes people say to me words like, ‘Never has the gospel of Christ been needed more. We live in the darkest of times.’ I understand the sentiment behind such comments, but we only have to look briefly at the unfolding of human history to know that always, through all eras, the gospel of Christ has always been needed. Have we forgotten the Dark Ages? The light of God as seen in Jesus, has always been needed to dispel darkness. Always the message of the gospel is needed by people, by all people.
We hear John testifying in the opening verses of his gospel, about Jesus, that he was ‘the true light, which gives light to every man (person)…’ (John 1:8). To every person who receives him, that is. Nothing is forced upon the individual.
Elsewhere, John talks about people, humanity, us, choosing to live in darkness rather than in the light of God, as most perfectly seen in the person and work of Christ. May it not be so in our case. And may we be witnesses to that Light which is the light of the world, the light which ‘darkness cannot comprehend’ (John 1:5).
So my friends, Commissioner Silvia and I exhort you to prayer. In troubling times, our knees must bend more than ever. I am reminded of the song we sing in the Army, the world over: ‘He giveth more grace’. There is a line therein which says ‘to multiplied trials he multiplies peace’.
People in Paris, and many other places, are experiencing multiple trials of the sort which most of us cannot really comprehend. For them we pray that somehow, a multiplication of peace, through the Holy Spirit, will be their experience. If not today, then soon. God’s grace be with you.
- The Salvation Army International