I now live in Australia but I’m French. I’ve lived several years in Paris where many of my friends and family members still live. Two of the attacks occurred in the same street where by my best friend lives. His partner’s sister was enjoying drinks with her friends in one of the restaurants were so many people got killed on this tragic Friday the 13th. Luckily she survived.
I was touched by the outpour of solidarity I have received, my warmest thanks to you all. I read lots of articles and watched heaps of media about the Paris attacks. Yet, I started quite rapidly to feel uncomfortable at the world’s focus on this latest wave of terrorist attacks. I’ve lived and worked in countries where such violence is a daily fact of life, including in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Kenya and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. I am sad for my Iraqi, Afghan, Yemeni, Kenyan, Israeli and Palestinian friends. I feel tired for my Muslim friends who bear the brunt of this violence.
Of course, as humans, it’s normal to be touched more by tragic events that hit people and places that are culturally close to us. It’s also normal to feel a sense of fatigue and confusion about tragic yet recurrent events that occur so far away from us. Likewise it’s natural to drape ourselves in our identity when we feel so violently confronted.
But let’s not get duped. We won’t win peace by dropping more bombs. Let’s instead attend to the sufferings of those who flee the bombs – any bombs. If we want to fight, let’s fight against inequality and injustice. These are legitimate triggers to any form of extremism.
If you want to join the fight, rest assured you don’t have to travel far. Just befriend your neighbour and attend to their occasional needs. Help the homeless in your town. Support refugees in the translation of their administrative documents. Learn how our current economic system promotes greed and inequalities. Understand that the effects of climate change already lead to survival, violence and extremism. Let’s ensure that youth around us see hope in the world we are leaving them.
Pick your battle, there are many. But as A. J. Muste famously said, let’s recall loudly that “there is no way to peace, peace is the way”.