I’ve been thinking of the 84-year old French priest murdered as he led a mass. He’s a true martyr, simply killed for his faith. Some of those who commit suicide or are killed as they murder others in the name of religion claim the title “martyr,” but they are anything but. Their true title is “murderers,” and they will be greeted as such in the afterlife. Meanwhile, I pray for the grieving community who lost their priest is such a hideous way.
But I offer two words. One is from another who was martyred, Paul of Tarsus. He wrote the church in Philippi, “I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Phil. 1.20-21).
The second is the testimony of Christian de Cherge, the French priest and monk who was martyred during the war in Algeria. His words to his would-be murderer about meeting in paradise are a true testament of love. (I tell his story in “Interfaith Heroes.” You can also see it in the movie “Of Gods and Men.”) He transforms even the way we think of murderers in the afterlife when he wrote in a letter just prior to his martyrdom about heavenly reconciliation: “May we be granted to meet each other again, happy ‘good thieves,’ in paradise, should it please God, the father of both of us. Amen! In sh’Allah!”