A week ago I was having a conversation with a local friend about French politics, the rise of the far-right party and the upcoming presidential election. I told him that unless a major terrorist attack would happen before the election, the extreme right could be defeated.
On Saturday morning – Friday evening in France – I felt the world collapse around Paris, plunging us into a day of international mourning.
I was getting ready for an early morning conference when a friend in Greece sent me a message saying she heard the news about Paris and that she was deeply sorry. Although in a rush, I turned on Euronews and sat in shock, repeating « Merde, what is going on?! ».
The second major terrorist attack in France in less than one year, this time not only targeting a symbol of freedom but deliberately aiming at the civilian population, anywhere and everywhere in Paris. Merde. How could this possibly happen, and why? I have countless friends in Paris, and I did not try to reach any of them at first, only staring at the news feed. Merde, again. A friend was at the Bataclan theatre last week. Anyone could have been out that night, actually was anyone out that night?! Fortunately, none of my relatives were around. However, knowing that my friends and family were safe did not give me the sense of relief I was hoping for. I guess this is why we call it an international day of mourning, because everyone was targeted. By everyone I do not mean all Parisians, all French or even all Europeans. Peace is under threat, everywhere and every day. Europeans are slowly waking up and opening their eyes on what is going on in the Middle-East as well as elsewhere.
Studying international law and human rights, I am aware that massacres and terrorist attacks are happening every day in the world. I often feel sad and bitter to see how seldom European media, and especially French ones, report on such tragedies, instead doing a five minute coverage on how much money French people will spend for Christmas eve rather than on issues that, in my opinion, actually do matter. One life is not worth more than another, whoever it may be. Yes, most of us, French or Westerners, feel probably more concerned because what happened on Friday took place in somewhere we know, in the heart of Europe, in streets we walk and restaurants we eat in. It is human nature to relate more to what happens close to us, whether it is our city, country or region. What has happened is sad beyond words and is just as sad as attacks in Bagdad or Beirut that deserved more coverage.
I hope this tragic event will be a good wake-up call for all of us and bring us together for a longer time than it did last January after the Charlie Hebdo attack. While Europe is facing its biggest migration crisis since the Second World War, it is time to understand that we are all part of the same human family and that nationalities should not matter, especially when we are dealing with terrorism. I am touched that the world is showing its support to France, and I hope France could now show it support to the world as well.
It is time for each and every of us to wake up and face our responsibilities regarding what is going on. It is time to realize that we should have united a long time ago, and to stop grumbling about taxpayers’ money every time migrants are mentioned. It is time to finally realize that refugees were and are trying to escape from the same assailants that struck in Paris and that we are all in the same boat. Finally, it is time to realize that only unity, tolerance and compassion can save us and that hatred will lead to our downfall.
Today, as a French citizen I am in mourning and I am also incredibly terrified. I truly believe that it is important to fight the opponent but not through any means necessary. In a time like this, it is easy to succumb to fear and adopt measures that would trample on the freedoms and human rights of others. Our humanity is what makes us genuinely different from the terrorists. Xenophobia, intolerance and violence of any nature are not a solution. The far-right political parties are not the solution. I hope that after our mourning we can all take time to reflect on our own position. We must not wake up in a few months in a world where the words « liberté, égalité, fraternité » no longer apply to France. Praying for Paris will not be enough, we must stand up for the World and stand up for Peace.
Marine Uldry is a 23-year-old French/Swiss exchange student at HKU from Beaumont (Haute-Savoie, France). She has an LL.B French Private Law from Université Jean Moulin Lyon III (France) and is pursuing an LL.M International Laws at Maastricht University (The Netherlands).