(This editorial first appeared in the December issue of the Anglican Journal.)
Many of us will likely say 2014 turned out to be another annus horribilis. Indeed, it seemed as if we were trapped in an endless cycle of violence and misery. At press time, 2014 was a banner year for bad news, often remembered as single-name locations or pithy hashtags: Gaza, Syria, ISIS, Iraq, Ebola, Malaysia Airlines, Ukraine, Boko Haram and, closer to home, the Moncton tragedy, the fatal hit-and-run in Montreal and of course, the Ottawa shooting.
In times like these, it is easy to shudder in fear or look at “the other” with increasing anger and suspicion. It is tempting to lose one’s faith in humanity, even perhaps to have an overwhelming desire to live in an underground bunker, away from it all. Or tune out “the noise” of the world with the technology of one’s choice. Still, for others, catastrophes can shake one’s faith in a benevolent God.
We ought to do better than that. It is important to remember the injustices and suffering that continue in the world, yes. As a people of hope, however, we can also choose to remember these horrendous events through a different lens and a more life-giving, ultimately more powerful narrative.
There were horrible people who committed unimaginable acts against other people. But there were also others who defied fear and plucked up the courage to do the right thing, sometimes at great cost.
As Cpl. Nathan Cirillo lay dying at the foot of the National War Memorial, there were fellow Canadians who, as the Globe and Mail reported, ran “not toward safety, but toward the shots” to help him. As one person applied CPR, another-lawyer Barbara Winters-urged him to hang on. “You are loved. Your family loves you. You’re a good man,” she told him. Simple yet cogent words that offered solace and hope to his family and to us all.
In Syria and Iraq, Muslims offered safe havens to Christians being persecuted by ISIS thugs, Christians refused to give up their faith, mothers made dangerous treks to flee violence and save their children, and journalists refused to let the beheadings of fellow journalists intimidate them. In Jerusalem, as Hamas and Israeli troops exchanged fire in Gaza, young Christian, Jewish and Muslim youth from Kids4Peace broke bread together for peace in Israel and Palestine.
While many of us have been swept up in the hysteria over Ebola, doctors, nurses and health workers in West Africa have died and are dying from complications of the disease, along with their patients. Let us remember one person in particular, Dr. Sheik Humarr Khan, who at one point was the only doctor left in Ebola wards in Sierra Leone and whose heroic efforts at saving lives cost him his own.
Love, courage and selflessness are, of course, a part of The Nativity Story: Mary and Joseph’s unconventional marriage, their perilous journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem, the birth of Christ in a filthy stable, the magi who defied Herod, and shortly after, Mary and Joseph’s flight into Egypt.
As we celebrate Christmas and reflect on the year just past, may we remember the words of the angels to the terrified shepherds on the day of Jesus’ birth: “Do not be afraid; for see-I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord” (Luke 2:10-11).