The trouble is, that after a hideous event like that in Paris, we move into soundbite mode, over-simplify everything and march for we know not-quite-what.
Self-evidently, in an open and free democracy, free speech and the freedom of the press are important. But what nobody ever seems to say, is that one freedom does not come vacuum-packed in its own wrapper. It is always intertwined with other freedoms, and we cannot insist entirely on one without doing violence to others.
So, yes to free speech. Even, yes to the puerile posturings of what passes for satire in Charlie. In England we have a long history of satire and the original Grub Street publications were far more scurrilous than today. Satire plays a critical role in poking fun at pomp and corrupted power.
But I am not Charlie. I do not identify with their outlook and approach. They have the right to free speech, but in my opinion our verbal freedom should not be at the expense of the lives of others.
When free speech and freedom of religion collide, which freedom takes priority?
The answer will undoubtedly emerge from a person’s own world-view.
What I am, is my brother’s and sister’s keeper.
What I am, is somebody charged with caring for the vulnerable.
What I am, is somebody committed to reconciliation as a way of life.
I am not Charlie. But I am with all those Muslims who just want to live a peaceful life.
I’m with those who want to go back to the homes that have been ransacked, shelled and burned, by fellow-Muslims.
I’m with those Muslims living in hiding, in refugee camps, in relatives’ homes.
I’m with those grieving for the loss of children, parents and partners in the latest violence.
I’m in prayer for them all.
Compassionate God and Father of all,
we are horrified at violence
in so many parts of the world.
It seems that none are safe, and some are terrified.
Hold back the hands that kill and maim;
turn around the hearts that hate.
Grant instead your strong Spirit of Peace –
peace that passes our understanding
but changes lives,
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
(prayer from Church of England website)