In Paris, celebrating kindness to fight terrorism
This picture shows a general view of tributes laid to victims of the Paris attacks at the foot of the Monument a La Republique in Paris on November 16, 2015. AFP photoLast Friday, November 13th, France was among the many countries observing World Kindness Day, “a day that encourages individuals to overlook boundaries, race and religion,” as stated on the Wiki page of the event.
On this same day, more than a hundred people were killed in a series of coordinated terrorist attacks in Paris. A fellow journalist, Guillaume B., a music critic, is among the dead. He was attending the concert at the Bataclan theatre, the music venue where a mass shooting and hostage situation occurred. I didn’t know him very well -we had spent four days together back in 2012, covering a Hard Rock Festival in London for our respective media- but one thing had struck me about him: as much as he liked heavy metal, he was a really nice guy. Sweet, generous, smart. Progressive, tolerant. An agent of peace, father of two little girls and friend to so many.
Caroline, another friend of mine, was also inside the Bataclan on Friday, November 13th. Prior to the concert, on this very same day, she was protesting against the dismantling of a refugee camp at the Place de la République, Paris’s favorite hub for protesters comparable to Taksim Square. For months, she has been spending her energy trying to help incoming migrants from Syria and other distressed countries, collecting food, clothes and advocating for more welcoming immigration policies.
Luckily, Caroline and her boyfriend managed to escape from the Bataclan on Friday night. Since then, she regularly updates her Facebook page to reassure friends and family. On Sunday (Nov. 15), probably facing an unmanageable flow of messages, emails and texts, she posted the following message on her wall: “What happened on Friday, what we saw and went through just has no words, no name for us. Thank you all for your support. To those who’d like to know how they could help us, this is my answer: on Friday, we experienced the same kind of horror that the refugees I take care of are trying to escape. Right now, they need more than ever the French people to be attached to human rights and liberty. So if you want to help and you don’t know how, give them a shelter, some food, a blanket, a friendly ear, a smile. We have you, but they don’t have anyone and this is what worries us most today.”
All the victims of the Paris attacks may not have been blessed with Caroline’s generosity or Guillaume’s kindness, but yet, I bet they have a lot in common. Because the attackers, in a twisted, sadistic move, chose their target carefully: they hit the heart of progressive Paris. They did not go after the Christian fundamentalists, the Muslim-haters, the extreme-right voters, nor the touristy places, the ministries, the institutions. By choosing to strike where they struck on a Friday night, they went after the young, open-minded Parisians, who like to gather with friends, see a Californian rock band and eat Asian food. The neighborhoods where the attacks occurred have certainly gentrified, but they have kept a popular feel and they are more prone to be full of tolerant, peaceful and progressive people than other areas of the country.
I can see an obvious parallel between what just happened in Paris and what happened in Turkey, first with the Suruç massacre in July where 30 young activists discussing the reconstruction of the town of Kobane died, and then with the bombing of an HDP-supported peace rally in Ankara in October.
Even if the context was more politicized in Turkey than in Paris, the three attacks all targeted the young and the idealistic. It is a sign that the terrorists want to take away from us what’s most precious: hope for a better world, where people of all boundaries, race and religion can live together.
Maybe it is no coincidence that Guillaume died on the World Kindness Day. He embodied it. To truly defeat the terrorists, we shouldn’t become more nationalistic. We shouldn’t buy more weapons. We shouldn’t engage in violence. We should just be kinder to each other. Kindness: this is what the terrorists were and are still after.
*Claire Derville is a senior web editor of FRANCE 24.