As delivered at BBC Radio Bristol this morning:
In the American political drama 'The West Wing' news of a coup in the imaginary African country of Equatorial Kuhndu reaches the White House. President Bartlett asks Will Bailey, one of his speech writers, 'Why is an American life worth more to me than a Kuhndunese life?' 'I don't know sir' says Will, 'but it is.'
He is commended for speaking a hard truth to power.
Last week there were terrorist atrocities in Beirut, Baghdad and Paris. The highest loss of life was in Paris but the other events were not insignificant.
Two things diminish our capacity to care - distance and repetition. A suicide bomber in a place far away where these things seem common doesn't move us the way a local one does.
Now the French are our obvious neighbours and friends. It didn't happen so far away.
A man once asked Jesus who was his neighbour. As reply he got the well-known but often misused parable of the Good Samaritan. A priest and a Levite pass by a wounded Jew but a Samaritan, a traditional enemy, does the decent thing and looks after the victim.
Jesus turns the question round. 'Who was neighbour to that man?' 'The one who had mercy on him', says the questioner. 'Go and do likewise' says Jesus.
If you want to know who your neighbour is find someone to whom you can be merciful.
My condolences, of course, to any who are personally affected by tragedy today. Maybe the most solidarity-inspired action we can take in response to the harm suffered by our neighbours in Paris, Baghdad or Beirut is not to seek vengeance but to have mercy on someone. Anyone who needs it. Go on. Pay it forward.