Lessons from Paris and Beyond

We were still reeling from the horrific events in Paris when the terrorist killings in San Bernardino gave us another jolt. As we grapple with the significance of these attacks we are wise to consider the adage: Those who forget history are condemned to repeat it. Much can be learned from these events, especially those that rocked the city of Paris. France in the 16th century was Europe's richest and most promising nation. By the mid-1500s, one fifth of the French population had converted to true biblical faith. Known as Huguenots, these French Protestants were mercilessly persecuted and killed by the French royalty and the religious prelates who were determined to maintain their despotic monopoly on power and wealth.

The Huguenots were forced to unite in an army to defend their families and towns. Their leader, Admiral Coligny, led them to victory again and again against the king's forces. By 1572, the Huguenots were close to achieving peace. But 19-year-old King Charles IX of France was ruled by a ruthless force — his mother, Catherine D' Medici. She was a Machiavellian power monger who controlled France by seducing the men of the court for her purposes through a group of aristocratic courtesans (prostitutes).

Catherine and her conspirators knew that the Huguenots had become too powerful to be crushed in battle. Thus she plotted to destroy them through deception with promises of religious tolerance. As a cover for her deceit, Catherine arranged a marriage between her Catholic daughter and the future king of France, Henry of Navarre, a Bible-believing Huguenot.

Who can resist a royal wedding? The grand event was to take place on a religious holiday, St. Bartholomew Day, in 1572. King Charles gave Coligny and the Huguenot leadership the promise of a peace accord. The Huguenots were anticipating a time of joy and religious liberty for all. Thousands of believers laid down their guns and swords and came to Paris for the celebration. As the bells of Notre Dame Cathedral rang out on the last night of feasting after the wedding, a huge mob of assassins sprang into action. First, they killed the Huguenot leader, Admiral Coligny, in his bedroom. His head was sent to the Pope as a prize of war. Three thousand Protestants were massacred in the next few days in Paris. Tens of thousands more were cut down all over France in the months that followed.

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