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December 4, 2015
Lorna Dueck

It never hurts to hear from a national hero when lurking around our emotions are fears of widows and orphans from Islamic states. Canada’s former Sergeant-at-Arms, Ambassador Kevin Vickers, has shunned media since his October 22, 2014 shooting of a terrorist in the halls of Parliament Hill. Ambassador Vickers has, however, done significant spiritual work to think through his own approach to security. If the setting is right, you can hear from Ambassador Vickers the impact his Christian faith has had on those ideas.

Ambassador Vickers explained this to a multifaith gathering in Toronto earlier this month as he spoke of a lifelong journey to treat people with dignity, and respect. These are values he aspired to, he explained, because of the teaching that God forms the human spirit within each person. Beliefs that made him a different kind of cop, beliefs that he felt “had equipped me to take 17 confessions of men who have killed people. I attribute this to my dad’s teaching of human dignity and respect of people.” These convictions eventually led him to leave the RCMP, “because its values no longer aligned with mine, especially on the treatment of women,” said Ambassador Vickers. There’s a lot of back-story to explore there, evidence which indicates that what people believe about God, does impact their job. 

I think Ambassador Vickers gained the best of religion from his dad, as he told the story of how as a first-generation Irish immigrant, his father would come to Kevin’s bedside each night and pray over him the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi: “Lord, make him an instrument of peace, where there is hatred, let him sow love….”  

So it was when Ambassador Vickers himself encountered hatred, and found himself having to shoot to kill in the halls of Parliament, he needed to rediscover Francis’ plea for “hope, light, and joy.” I don’t know what kind of priest answers the phone at 4:30 a.m. and says he’ll be there for an 11 a.m. morning Mass, but that’s the kind of priest they have out in Miramiche, and Ambassador Vickers spoke of that private family Mass as a time of putting down his own spiritual anchors after the Parliament Hill shooting. “Probably one of the proudest moments of my life was to say a prayer for the man I shot with my three grandchildren on my lap,” he told the gathering of Faith in Canada 150. 

ISIS, or Daesh, makes billions recoil. Their war of terror has hijacked religious story, making us reluctant to talk about God. It’s like the elephant in the room no one will mention. Yet time and again, it is the stories of God people turn to when their own knowledge and courage is under attack.

Referencing the Bible, Ambassador Vickers told the Faith in Canada 150 gathering, “I reflected that the first person Jesus allowed into heaven was a convicted killer.” For Ambassador Vickers, it was the way of Jesus that provided a remedy to the poison of violence. Likewise, when fear becomes the lens through which we view the global refugee crisis, it’s time to find a better balance in the debate between security and compassion. That is where our faith stories do provide understanding for how and why we welcome a stranger.    

What you believe about God matters, let’s keep it in the public eye.


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