This what we know: Abdelkim Hassane was 41 years old, a father with three children, who worked for the provincial government. Khlaed Belkacemi was 60 – he had two children and taught at the University of Laval. Abounbaker Thabit was 44, a pharmacist. He had three children. Ibhahima Barry, who came to Canada from Guinea, had four children and worked for the health insurance board of Quebec. Mamadou Tanou Barry had two children, and was supporting his family back home in Africa. Azzeddine Soufiane was a grocer and a butcher. He had three children.
So this is what we learn: This week, 17 children lost their fathers, violently and suddenly. Their families are suddenly and irrevocably torn apart.
This is what we know: Last Sunday night, hours after many of us had gone from this place, a man with a gun walked into a mosque in Quebec City and began shooting. In a place, where people came to worship, where they are most vulnerable and where they expected to be safe, he brought death.
This is what we learn: Canada, famous for it welcome of the stranger, is not vaccinated against hate.
This is what we know: On Thursday, thousands of people lined up to pay their respects to the victims of this crime – to these fathers who had died senselessly – and to push back against the message that this crime sends – that some people are acceptable and some are not.
And this is what we learn: On the very day of this memorial, in Montreal, a Mosque is vandalized with eggs, the windows shattered, and police report an uptick in incidents of Islamophobic activity. And across the border, the talk of walls continues.
It was all a lot to take in. After all, this is not supposed to happen here – not in our country, which rallied to bring in refugees, which proudly identifies as multi-cultural, where immigrants are seen as valuable assets and full contributors. And yet it did happen here, even as the rhetoric heats up to the south of us, even as our own Prime Minister spoke up against closing doors on Muslim majority countries.
So this is what we know: Hate is a shadow that eats away at the brightest light.
And this is we learn: We must be brighter still.
No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but in the lampstand, and it gives light to all the house.
We are to let our light shine.
It feels like we have come to a moment in time. We have a decision to make. A side to choose. Not in a passive, drifting way, but with a deliberate stance. These moments come around for all of us – times when we can choose to blame or forgive, to trust or to fear, to love or to hate. Perhaps you are tired, perhaps you worry that the world is spinning, that the shadows are growing, that what happened on 9/11, and in Paris and London and Aleppo and Nigeria, and now Quebec City, and what is happening in Washington – that it is just all too much. And if you felt that way, I would say you are right. It is too much. Far too much.
Jesus tells us: You are the salt of the earth. And what does salt do? It preserves what is valuable. It cleans away stains. It gives flavour to life. That is us – our calling – to be the salt for the earth. To preserve hope. To scrape away hate. To add flavour.
But what shall we do? What difference can we make?
First of all; to clean the stain, we have to know where it is. So find the darkness inside yourself. I have it. I know you have it too. That secret prejudice, that persistent stereotype, the one you don’t even want to admit to yourself. Let your light shine on it. Here’s a trick: take that ugly, judgey belief out and type it into Google, and see what comes up, see what you learn, see if you get a clear idea whose side you want to be on in the discussion. I bet you will know what side you choose.
To preserve what we value, we must be able to state clearly what it is that is worth valuing. Safety is one item. The freedom to worship is another. But also the freedom to sit on a city bus and not have racial slurs tossed in your discussion. And the freedom to be at a party and not hear everyone laugh at a joke that mocks your faith, and nobody says, I don’t think that’s funny. If these are the things we value, we must be the salt applied to each situation, rubbing others in the right direction.
All we have to do to add flavour is to be welcoming. When we welcome strangers we add diversity. We make life interesting. We expand our views. We challenge our ideas. We shine light beyond our own small circle. If any community of faith knows how to add flavour it is this one.
As people who call themselves Lutheran Christian, we bear more responsibility. We have a greater obligation to speak up about religious prejudice, and persecution – not because we fear it ourselves – but because it is so often done in our name, assuming we will sit idly by. This cannot be.
This is what we know: The shadows do not win – if we do not let them. The goodness of humanity – the God-given saltiness in each one of us – is not lost, if we do not lose it.
For this is what we learn: We are, each one of us, powerful lights, difference-making pieces of salt. How we live, what we say, the jokes we tell, the beliefs we express, they are all part of the organism that is humanity. And just as one man with a gun can bring terror; another person with an offered hand can bring hope. And we know that people are far more to prone to the second than the first. People want to be salt. People want to be light.
This is what we know: God lights the path for us. Jesus lights the path for us. The Holy Spirit lights the path for us. For the Bible tells us so.
This is what we learn: We are enlivened to let our light shine.