FAITH MATTERS: 'You will not have my hate' Book review

Five years ago this week, on November 13th, Antoine Leiris was at home looking after his seventeen-month-old son, when his wife Hélène was slaughtered, along with 88 other people, at the Bataclan Theatre in Paris by ISIL terrorists.

Three days later, Antoine wrote an open letter to his wife’s killers on Facebook. He refused to let his life or that of his baby sons be defined by their acts, instead he wrote, “For as long as he lives, this little boy will insult you with his happiness and freedom.” Instantly, that short post caught fire and was shared around the world.

In the months that passed Leiris, a reporter by trade, transformed the thoughts of this original post into his extraordinarily poignant memoir You Will Not Have My Hate.  In a diary-like format he relives the day of the attack at the Bataclan through to the 25th of November, the day after Helene’s funeral.  The book is his cathartic attempt to heal; but he readily admits, “it will only tame, not heal.”

Leiris’ Facebook post turned him into a “brief” media sensation by having responded to the unthinkable, with a defiant and decisive decision to not hate. While many saw him and his reaction as courageous, a beacon of hope in a world of extremism; just as many saw his response as deluded and naïve.

Faith in God calls us to love everyone, even our enemies. By refusing to hate, what Leiris is in-fact doing is refusing to give himself or his son up to his enemies. He will not let them take him and Melvil as well.  Those outraged by his decision not to hate, perhaps worry that he is advocating we put terror and evil in the past and move on, forgive and forget so to speak.  However, what he is really doing is giving himself power over his enemies, by not allowing them to define the rest of his life or his son’s life, “We will never return to our life of before. But we will not build a life against them (ISIL). We will move forward in our own life.”  

In this book we are dealing with the problem of finding and expressing the love of God for us as all as human creatures in the context of human crime; and that’s a very tough issue. This one sitting read, is Leiris’s declaration of defiance to those who peddle hatred in our world; and worth the short hour it takes to read.

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