Sunday, January 11, 2015

"Je Suis Charlie" - Showing My Support For And In Solidarity With The People Of France

BBC reporting and captured footage of the Unity March near the Charlie Hebdo offices

My first blog post of the year was certainly not what I had planned to write about, but due to the nature of the terrorist attacks in France this past week, which left seventeen people dead, I felt it was necessary to show my support for and express my solidarity with the people of France. I think it is a fair assumption to make that by now, much of the world has heard about the attacks and has a basic understanding of what had transpired during the three days of absolute shock and horror. If you are not familiar with the details, the British Broadcasting Corporation's (BBC) article, Charlie Hebdo attack: Three days of terror provides an excellent summary of events that unfolded on Wednesday, January 7th and ended on Friday, January 9th.

In response to the drama of the past few days, France prepared a very well organized Unity March that drew between one million to one and half million people. In attendance were people from all walks of life, international visitors and over 40 world leaders such as British Prime Minister, David Cameron, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu. All marched in solidarity for freedom and to honour and respect those fifteen civilians who were killed in the attacks and for the two police officers who died in the line of duty. For everyone's safety, there were 5,500 police officers at the march, including marksmen at roof tops. 

Many countries from the international community held their own rallies in support for and in solidarity with France's Unity March. Here in Canada, marches were organized in Quebec City, Toronto, Halifax and Vancouver. In addition, there were similar marches in Toyko, Syndey, Beirut, Ramallah, Jerusalem, Berlin, London, Madrid, Buenos Aires, New York, Washington and Boston.

I spent the better part of the late morning and afternoon watching the Unity March on the BBC and it was quite an impressive and moving display of unity and fearlessness in the face of terrorism. One of the more moving moments was when police marksmen who were positioned at the top of buildings, would salute the crowds below drawing cheers and clapping. This happen several times and it was such a beautiful display of unity. The above photo shows two such police marksmen at the building directly to the reporter's right, at the middle of the building.



Place de la République, the square in Paris where thousands gathered for the Unity March

It was moving to see spontaneous songs erupting in an atmosphere of courtesy and consideration that manifested itself in group activities and individual gestures of peace. One group had several hundred white roses that were passed to everyone amongst themselves which were simultaneously thrown in the air together with cheers. Another example was the giving of a white rose to a French Jewish man from a French Muslim man, which was his personal gesture of peace. The overall loving and peaceful mood of the march was a much needed antidote to the hatred and violence that France experienced this past week.

What started out this past week as a tragic time marked by horror and sadness has ended with peace and unity. Many French people said that this week's events was France's 9/11. Regardless if this ends up being the case, it is my hope that today has marked the beginning of a healing process amongst the people of France. All of the seventeen dead individuals and their families are in my prayer intentions. I also include and would like to pay a special tribute to the slain police officers, who like all police officers must at times place themselves in harm's way, that unfortunately for some will result in death. I hope that France improves support for the police forces in the areas of tactical support, intelligence gathering, protective gear, education and training so that police officers are even better trained and prepared, as much as possible, to more effectively deal with such attacks in the future. 

The Charlie Hebdo Magazine made an error in judgement as to what was proper and ethical to publish. It is incumbent upon all people of good will to make every effort not to offend anyone for any reason. Demographic issues in France are no justification for insulting someone's faith, race or anything else that ignores and diminishes the dignity of the human being. I have never heard of Charlie Hebdo until this week and from my brief research it became clear that this magazine has a history of publishing risky material that offends many people of different backgrounds and religions. I discovered from a fellow blogger, Lea Z. Singh, that the Roman Catholic faith has also been mocked by this magazine. Apparently, in the past cartoons were published depicting nuns masturbating and the Pope wearing a condom. Clearly, this and similar type publications are sure to invoke very negative responses and in some cases, as this week proved to be, very violent ones.

The Charlie Hebdo attack and others that followed this week spotlights the incorrect and unethical use of freedom. Yes, freedom is a must include for a peaceful society, but with freedom comes responsibility. No one of good will can claim under the banner of freedom, that it is right to publish something that knowingly offends a religion, ethnic group, society and country. The legal availability to do so is not a justification. Understanding the importance of ethical guidelines and implementing them helps to ensure that society is peaceful. To do otherwise may result in the opposite which is what France has witnessed these past few days.

Even worse was the violent response against the Charlie Hebdo Magazine. Violence is not the answer and the murder of the Charlie Hebdo employees, those who happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time, the police officers and the deaths that were the result of this incident's spawning of two other terrorist attacks, are completely unacceptable. As much as I disapprove of the cartoon publications, I in no way condone the murderous actions of these aggressive Muslims who under the banner of Islam acted against the law of the land.

When disputes arise in a civilized society, there are peaceful means by which anyone can have recourse to express objections and seek change for the better, such as article publications, blogs, social networks, radio, internet and television broadcasts and legal challenges. Sadly, those responsible for these attacks have not sought out such peaceful means to communicate their objections, much to their detriment.


Night descended upon the march, but neither the cold nor the night discouraged participants

It is my hope and prayer that freedom will not only be respected and guaranteed, but used responsibly. Having stated that, in support for and in solidarity with the people of France I say, "Je suis Charlie."


God Bless France.






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