The brave French policeman who ‘died a hero’

The face of bravery: Beltrame’s superior officers noted that he would “fight to the end”.

Should you give your own life to save someone else? The world is mourning Arnaud Beltrame, a French policeman who died after saving a complete stranger during a terrorist attack on Friday.

At 11am on Friday in the French town of Trèbes, a man named Redouane Lakdim stormed into a supermarket armed with a handgun and a knife.

He immediately shot two people dead. Within minutes, hundreds of police arrived to a hostage situation.

Then Arnaud Beltrame, a 44-year-old gendarme, stepped forth. Beltrame offered himself in place of last hostage not yet freed. He tried to negotiate with Lakdim.

After three hours, Lakdim shot Beltrame. Police stormed in, killing Lakdim. Beltrame died of his wounds over the weekend.

A week before Easter Sunday, this story of sacrifice has touched the world. President Emmanuel Macron declared that Beltrame had “fallen a hero”.

The theme of sacrifice is at the heart of Christianity. Jesus was “delivered over to death for our sins”.

Modern history is full of martyrs too: during the 9/11 terror attacks, hundreds of New York firefighters died rescuing trapped workers from the collapsing buildings.

Many people can imagine risking their lives to save a loved one. But Beltrame’s death represents a rarer form of altruism. Should you give your own life to save a stranger?

The ultimate sacrifice

Yes, say some. It is morally wrong to let someone die if you think you could save them. Self-sacrifice makes social and biological sense too: it contributes to trust in society, and encourages others to help those around them. As Martin Luther King Jr once said: “If a man has not discovered something that he will die for, he isn’t fit to live.”

Your first priority should always be yourself, reply others. You can never be sure that someone will be as selfless as you. It is all very well being called a hero, but not if you are not around to enjoy it. Life is the most precious thing in the world, and so it is more noble to do whatever it takes to survive.

You Decide

  1. Should you sacrifice yourself to save another person?

Activities

  1. Define the word “hero”.

Some People Say...

“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”

John 15:13

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
Arnaud Beltrame, a 44-year-old French policeman, volunteered to swap places with a hostage during a terrorist attack. He was shot and died two days later.
What do we not know?
Why people behave so selflessly. Animals pass on their genes by having offspring. But creatures that happily sacrifice themselves for others are unlikely to survive long enough to breed.

Word Watch

Redouane Lakdim
Moroccan-born Lakdim was known to police for a succession of minor crimes. On the day of the attack he hijacked a car Friday near the town of Carcassonne in Aude, killing a passenger and wounding the driver, before moving on to Trèbes.
Gendarme
France has two police forces: the Police nationale and Gendarmerie nationale, which is a branch of the French armed forces.
New York firefighters
343 firefighters of the New York City Fire Department died on 9/11.

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