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November 17, 2014
Mel Finlay
The week of October 20th - a week unlike any other in Canada. It began on Monday, October 20th when Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent and another soldier were struck in a targeted hit and run in the parking lot of a shopping mall in Quebec. Vincent died of injuries the next day. Two days later, on Wednesday, October 22nd, Corporal Nathan Cirillo was shot and killed while serving as Honour Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the Canadian War Memorial in Ottawa. His assailant subsequently entered the Parliament Buildings and died in a dramatic shoot-out in the Hall of Honour. The nation watched in shock, horror and disbelief.
 
In the hours and days following the killing of Corporal Cirillo and his assailant, and the 10-hour lockdown of Parliament Hill, individual Members of Parliament, their staff, and visitors to the Hill each processed the events in their own way. In all of their processing, one common theme kept emerging: "I always thought of this as a safe place.  I'd look at the walls, the doors, the security guards, and think, 'No matter how crazy things get in the world, at least here we are safe.'  But we weren't even safe here."  
 
That sense of the shaking of the foundations extended beyond Parliament Hill. One MP described the sense of vulnerability he felt on the long drive home that weekend. The familiar farmlands and long stretches of bush that used to be so comforting no longer seemed friendly and familiar.  Now they became potential hiding places for anyone who wanted to target him.  On Parliament Hill help might be moments away; on the roadways he travels, it could be hours.  He is not normally a fearful person; in fact, when the going gets tough he's one you would want backing you up.  But when the foundations shake, fear quickly takes hold. 
 
Spouses and other family members were left in a state of high anxiety throughout the period of lockdown, some receiving cryptic texts or phone calls saying nothing more than, "I'm okay but I'm not sure what's going to happen next."  Others had no information except the sparse commentary through the media. 
 
For many Canadians that day, the foundations were shaken. A business person from western Canada, reflecting on his experience in lockdown, said, "All of us are kind of having our 9/11 moment just wondering how the world is going to change." Some MP's have expressed publicly their struggles now with post-traumatic stress.
 
That the world has changed for Canadians there is little doubt; just how it has changed remains to be seen.
 
One thing is certain.  Faith in man-made security is misplaced, as MPs and those working on Parliament Hill have discovered.  Determined individuals intent on causing harm can find a way, particularly if they are willing to trade their life for that of their victims.  Increased vigilance by all of us, and increased security by our security forces, can reduce the probability of harm; it can never eliminate it.
 
One of the security guards who was in the middle of the action that day knows the source of true security. He had just returned from an extended leave the day before. Two more days of leave and he would have missed it all.  But, he said, "God made sure that I was where he needed me most." He was in the hallway where the shooting occurred.  "Unlike one of my colleagues [who was wounded by the assailant] I'm fine and still making efforts to rid my body of the adrenaline."
 
The Sergeant-at-Arms, Kevin Vickers, was also where the Lord needed him most.  By training and practice, professional experience, natural giftedness, and personality, he had been well prepared for such a time as this.  His decisive action prevented what could have been even greater tragedy.
 
October 22nd did serve as a grim reminder of how fragile life is, how quickly it can be taken and how dependent we are on security forces, thick doors and various lines of defence for a sense of safety.  It reinforced that there are very real limits to the sense of well-being provided by man-made security systems, and that only the Lord can provide us with a sense of eternal security and confidence.  
 
When the foundations are shaking, fear is a natural and often essential immediate reaction, even for Christians.  But for people of faith, fear is not the last word.  
 
As Jesus was preparing his disciples for life after his crucifixion he said, "In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world."  "I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace."An unshakable foundation indeed!
 
Determining appropriate levels and means of security in response to the "new normal" -
       requires more than human wisdom;
 
Recovering from the after-effects of the traumatic events of the past couple of weeks -
       requires more than human resilience;
 
Restoring a sense of well-being in the face of new, largely unseen threats -
       requires more than human action.  
 
It requires prayer that the Holy Spirit will infuse all with the extraordinary
wisdom, sustaining presence and transforming power of God.
 
  • Pray regularly for your elected representatives and for those charged with the security of the nation and its institutions, that the Lord will guide and guard their thoughts, planning, decisions and actions. 

  • Pray for the security forces, for vigilance, cool heads, and decisive action when needed. Pray for the security guard as he recovers from his gunshot wound. 
  • Pray for their families, for protection and certainty in the face of the unknown.
  • Pray for the families of Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent and Corporal Nathan Cirillo and for Corporal Branden Stevenson (Nathan Cirillo's close friend and sentry partner) that they will find comfort and a deepened relationship with the Lord in their sorrow, pain, and questioning.
  • Pray for the families of the two assailants, Martin Couture-Rouleau and Michael Zehaf Bibeau, that these events can be used in their lives to bring a deep and abiding relationship with the Lord, and that they can be an influence for good in the lives of others.
When the foundations shake, it is an opportunity to know more deeply and live out more fully the counter-intuitive faith, hope, love, courage and grace that God alone provides.
 
"In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8: 37-39)

A nationally respected leader, Mel Finlay has served in senior leadership roles in government, the not-for-profit and corporate sectors. Mel has served on the boards of national and international organizations and is currently chair of an NGO doing development work in Afghanistan


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