One week ago today, Alisha and I, along with our 15-month-old son Asher, were walking from our school in Barcelona's Gothic Quarter to check out a nearby neighborhood's festival.
Our route: Las Ramblas.
Twenty minutes after we had turned off the infamously touristy road, a rental van was intentionally driven down the pedestrian area, killing over a dozen people and injuring several others. We were 750 meters (~1/2 mile) away.
If you want the details of the attack, they are available on countless news sites. You can also read this article from The Mennonite to learn how we've tried to work with our church community to help them and our neighborhood process such a terrible event.
But that's not the purpose of this article. During our church service last Sunday, we created a time for folks to share what's on their hearts and minds. I was encouraged to share my perspective and so, as is my preference, I began processing through writing.
Here is what I shared (in all its rawness):
When we see violence in the world and even in our city, we first need to sit in a place of deep sadness. I believe God grieves with us when we suffer.
Unfortunately, almost immediately, we begin to hear responses [and commentary] and feel compelled to leave our grieving prematurely. They are responses of hatred and condemnation. And, truthfully, we SHOULD be filled with hatred and condemnation -- towards all forms of violence.
But Jesus teaches us we must not hold these feelings towards our fellow man. In fact, Jesus has the audacity to tell us we must love our enemy and pray for those who harm us. He teaches us that you cannot end hatred with force or additional hatred. In fact, radical love is the only thing that overcomes radical hate.
As Mennonites, this is not a new message for us. We have hope because Jesus has shown us there is a better path.
What about the city? Do people in Barcelona share the same hope? I don't think so.
Jesus made it our responsibility to share this hope. This is the purpose of being a church -- this is why we exist!
I want to be part of a community that is brave and creative in how we bring Jesus' message of radical love to Barcelona...in practical ways. We cannot be spectators any longer.
Can this be our community?
Let me be very clear: the terror attack that happened in Barcelona was pure evil. There is no justification for the vehicular violence that has been taking place in several other European cities, and more recently, through attacks in the United States. Such violence is disgusting and should make our blood boil.
That said, this kind of violence comes from painfully broken, desperate people. Learning how to love these folks in vulnerable, tangible ways is the secret to realizing the peace God desires for us all.
Your prayers are appreciated as we participate in this holy struggle to figure out what a practical response looks like. We love our community in Barcelona deeply. Folks here care so much about each other and and we've seen Christ's love towards one other models as well here as in any faith community we've been in.
That said, our impression has been that they're a bit out of practice when it comes to outwardly responding and overflowing into the neighborhood and city. Part of our call to Barcelona has been to help them grow in this area.
Kyrie eleison - Lord, have mercy.