By Charly Hunter as a Guest Editor for the Paris attacks (January 2015)
“Paris est aujourd’hui la capital du monde”, announced François Hollande during demonstrations in Paris on January 11th. Hollande was joined by 50 spiritual and political leaders from all over the world in grieving the Charlie Hebdo attacks. The whole of France was in grief, as the 4 million people in attendance that day vividly illustrated. Yet it is clear that France is not alone. It was truly heartwarming to witness such a rhetoric of peace and tolerance emerge around the world. Solidarity and compassion were shared through social medias outlets, public events and individual actions.
However, the most difficult part of grieving has yet to begin. How can we respond constructively to such a manifestation of raw violence on French territory? What concrete policies will be adopted by the French, both on the national and international scene, in light of these attacks? France enjoys an incredibly rich multicultural background, and must ensure security to the myriad of communities and ideologies that coexist within its public sphere. At a time of interconnection and globalisation, the necessity of a more tolerant public sphere is shared by most countries.
France must strengthen its democratic identity, a solid alternative to the islamist fundamentalism that is overwhelmingly present in our contemporary societal debates. The surge of hope and faith in democracy that rose after the attacks show that we can be heading in the right direction. France can lead the way. We can distance ourselves from the violence 9/11 provoked on the international scene. The huge demonstrations that burgeoned after the 7th of January are a sign of bottom-up change; where public opinion clearly stated that the people want measures taken to prevent such attacks from ever happening again.
So let’s sit tight, and await a better society.