How Will Canada Respond?

Yesterday much of Canada – and a lot of the rest of the world – watched as shootings occurred at our Parliament building in Ottawa. To summarize for anyone who wasn’t aware: one soldier, who was unarmed as it was a ceremonial position, was killed; a couple of others went to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries; the whole downtown area was on lockdown basically the whole day unsure if there was a second shooter or not; the shooter was a radicalized Muslim with some ties to ISIS.

I’ve seen three common streams of responses, with of course some being somewhere in the middle.

A nice demonstration of the different headlines by American vs Canadian media


Many are taking the “fight fire with fire” approach. They wanted that ceremonial soldier to be armed – whether or not it would have mattered in that case is debatable since he was essentially ambushed in public. They are calling for more crackdown for security and more power for military and police to track suspicious persons. This morning on CTV I saw not only a white Canadian military person encouraging this, but also a Muslim leader who clearly wanted to disassociate ISIS from mainstream Islam – which makes sense with his priority being to protect his non-radical people from violence against them. They see it as proof that we were right to send bombers against ISIS. Since “they” (ISIS in this case) killed one of “us” (Canadians), many Canadians won’t think twice about killing a couple thousand of the “them”, including civilians.

Go About Your Business

Perhaps the most stereotypical Canadian response is to basically assert that we won’t be afraid and so we’ll go about our business as usual. These people don’t want to sacrifice rights for greater military powers. They may or may not support the war on ISIS – their opinion on that probably wasn’t changed much yesterday. Basically, they just want to mourn for a few days and then carry on with minimal life adjustments to the threat.

At the national level, at least, I imagine we’ll see somewhere in between the first two options.

Active Enemy Love

Then there are those who want to respond to hatred with love. This may be the minority. One I heard via @RevDaniel on Twitter, who lives in Toronto. Apparently somebody who takes more of the violence response tried to get on the bus with a “Muslims are killing Canada” sign. The passengers on the bus – not just the driver enforcing the rules, but the passengers together – told him to either get off or leave the sign. I love this story. They didn’t attack him for being Islamophobic, although he clearly was. They just made it clear that this kind of hatred is not welcome, without devaluing his worth in the process. Another I saw was that the Ottawa Police reached out to local Muslim groups to make sure they knew that if they were feeling threatened by violent reactionaries to call them right away.

Maybe those aren’t really going as far as active enemy love. We could simply say that it was just combatting the false equating of ISIS or this particular shooter with all Muslims. Maybe I’m reading too much into it. And to be honest, I don’t really know what is the best response to ISIS on a national or individual level. I am certain that another war similar to the one(s) that created them in the first place is not the answer. I am also certain that we shouldn’t ignore them and go about our business.

Where do we go with fear?

To combine some nerdiness with some Scripture, we basically could follow one of two paths. First, one warned about by Yoda:

Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.

That will be suffering for everybody. We might pretend that it is suffering for “them” in order to benefit “us”, whether the “them” is strictly ISIS or all of Iraq and Syria or all of Islam. But it won’t be. We all suffer when we see violence as the only way to act out of our fear and anger.

On Facebook this morning I saw someone wisely point out that these two incidents – there was also a parking lot attack a few days ago – probably wouldn’t have happened if we didn’t join in bombing ISIS. Of course we can’t say for sure on a case by case basis like this, but that Yoda quote works both ways. Why did this person cause suffering? Probably because his group – his “us” – was threatened by our group – his “them,” causing fear and anger.

The other response to fear is a favourite verse:

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. (1 John 4:18a-b)

We will not make our world better through fear or anger or attempting to shift suffering from us to ISIS or anybody else we qualify as “other”.

We can make it better through a perfect love that casts out fear. I firmly believe this option is available to us, and it is this way taught by Jesus which is the only way we can bring lasting peace.

Ryan Robinson

It is easiest to identify Ryan as both theologian and tech guy. By day, Ryan is a Technical Consultant work with PeaceWorks Technology Solutions. There, he works on websites, CRMs, and SharePoint implementations. Along with blogging here, Ryan is a founding member of the MennoNerds blogging network and a contributor to the book A Living Alternative.