Even though I am not a Catholic, it was still disheartening to me when the venerable edifice, Notre Dame Cathedral, burned in France.
As a matter of fact, shock was felt by people of all faiths. I found it rather unique that most countries expressed sadness for the loss.
Besides being used in the story Hunchback of Notre Dame, the church stood as a monument to the very survival of faith. I’ve never seen it, but just the pictures of this imposing structure are a testament to the craftsmanship of ages past.
It took 100 years to build in 1160 AD, and it has become a rallying point for Christians ever since. So when it burned, the impact of this loss was felt not only in France, but around the world.
The demands and efforts to rebuild it have been strong and immediate; to the point that much money has been raised, which has now also been heavily criticized.
The estimates to repair it have been pegged at $350 million to $650 million, and to date, I believe that $1 billion has been raised.
Some groups have vehemently protested, saying money could better be used to feed the starving, helping the poor and others.
In part, I disagree with that sentiment. Let me tell you why.
We dwell in a world that is living in a state of great unrest, with many countries at each other’s throats; this being propagated by populist governments with pompous, useless rhetoric.
Crime, rage, drugs and despair have almost become the order of the day, so it is no wonder that people are desperately looking for something to hang on to.
We have many “learned” men telling us that life has no purpose, but Notre Dame Cathedral, if not all churches in the world, make a stand against that philosophy.
The world is in desperate need of true reason, comfort and purpose, not someone to ridicule people’s faith and purpose.
We will always have the poor and needy with us, and many are the efforts to meet those needs. But to direct every dollar to that effort does not serve that reason very well.
Take, for instance, the earthquake aftermath in Haiti. Fundraising efforts produced $500 million, with countries pledging a further $13.4 billion. Where did it all go?
Now, many years later, we find that a large portion of that aid did not feed the hungry, but rather, went to feed politically motivated violence.
With all that aid, cities should have been rebuilt, a social structure for the good of all its people created. But instead, we find the majority of the damage is still in place; unrest and a dependency culture has grown.
Meeting the physical needs of people, while being a very important effort, is really not the most important requirement of the poor. Aid should always be a hand up, not a way of life.
The adage is true that says, “Rather than giving a man a fish, teach him how to fish.”
If we give mankind a reason to hope, an enduring peace and the opportunity to earn his way in this world, rather than more efficient machines to replace him, we would be well on the way to slow the unrest that destroys so many people.
Who really cares that the widget I bought 10 years ago is exactly the same as one built today?
The Notre Dame Cathedral, as well as other churches, are there to provide the stability the world craves. So to rebuild this elaborate edifice is worth much more than a few dollars.
This rebuild will give all people, including the poor, hope and the reason to live.
Chris Salomons is a retired Red Deer resident with a concern for the downtrodden.