By NICHOLE GOLDEN, Staff Writer | Published November 16, 2015
ATLANTA—Mary and Bill Moon, parishioners of Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Atlanta, spent most of Saturday, Nov. 14, reaching out to friends in France.
“Everyone is OK, but everyone is shook up,” said Mary Moon about the aftermath of the Nov. 13 terrorist attacks in Paris, France.
The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attacks in which 130 people were killed and 367 injured at restaurants, a concert venue and soccer stadium.
The Moons lived in Paris, France, for 14 years, and in neighboring Luxembourg for two years. Bill Moon, who was founding principal at the International Community School in Decatur, worked as an educator in France. For several years he was a teacher and then director of the American Section of the Lycée International de St. Germain-en-Laye, a multinational French public school.
Many of the couple’s friends in France work with social agencies that assist refugees.
“They’re extremely concerned there’s going to be a backlash,” said Moon.
European investigators suspect that one of the terrorists posed as a refugee needing asylum from Syria. The known attackers have been identified as young French and Belgian men, some of whom fought in Syria with the Islamic State.
The Moons attended a weekend vigil at the French Consulate in Atlanta, where a large crowd gathered. It was an emotional experience for many.
“We met a young man … 20 years old from France who wanted to go home,” said Moon.
He explained that he was unable to get back to France due to flight restrictions, and that he had often frequented Le Bataclan, the theatre where gunmen killed concertgoers.
“That particularly touched him,” said Moon.
She remarked that the terrorists were similar in age to most of those murdered. The majority of the victims were young people out enjoying an evening in Paris.
The leaders who train and send these young people to kill others “stay very safe” themselves, she noted.
In work abroad and with the International Community School, a charter school for refugee students, the Moons have “had the opportunity to meet people of many different faiths,” she said.
“They know it’s about caring about your neighbor,” said Moon about true faith.
Moon’s father died at the age of 25 while serving in World War II. She said one of the last things he said was “we have to find a better way of solving our problems.”
“History is constantly being repeated. We still haven’t gotten the message,” she said.
Terrorists are doing “great harm” to those who practice Islam peacefully. She believes the Muslims practicing true Islam must be part of the solution.
“They’ve got to start getting involved in defending their own faith,” she said.
And they’re hearing a message from their French friends—“we have to hold hands with our friends of faith,” she said.
Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory, in a statement on the terrorist attack, urged all to work together to end this violence.
“The tragedy of the terrorist attack on the people of Paris is another sign of the violence of a radical group of people who seek to destroy not only human life, but societal stability and harmony. They cannot succeed,” said Archbishop Gregory. “We must not, however, simply become imitators of their hatred, but remain determined members of humanity who will not tolerate such brutality, but will work together to bring about an end to such hatred and human destruction.”
Franck Launay-Fallasse, theology department chair at Our Lady of Mercy High School in Fayetteville, is a native of France. He moved to the United States 13 years ago.
A teacher of morality and world religions, Launay-Fallasse has been strengthened by support from the community.
“First I would like to say that I am very impressed and I have a lot of gratitude for all of the signs of support and compassion shown to me personally and to France in general by American people,” he wrote in an email.
Launay-Fallasse said beyond the tragic events, there is a very difficult challenge.
“It is to react maturely and constructively to the 10 million Muslim population in France. The situation has been tense for some time now between the young Muslims and the autochthon communities,” he said.
Launay-Fallasse, who has led OLM student groups on trips to France, said this suffering was anticipated and isn’t over.
“It will be hard to fight back such a determined and faceless enemy who lives in our midst. It will be hard to remain evangelical and civilized, forgiving and ruled by law, rather than vengeful and blindly violent,” he said.
This battle, said the teacher, is taking place now in each French town and village between neighbors from two sides of the cultural spectrum.
“We need God’s supernatural grace to overcome with goodness the evil that befalls us,” emphasized Launay-Fallasse. “The terrorists screamed ‘Allahu akbar’ as they shot innocent people. ‘God is surely great,’ but in mercy and in love.”
Editor’s Note: This article was updated Nov. 26 regarding the number of those who were killed and injured in the Paris attacks and the ongoing effort to identify the attackers.