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January 7, 2015

The Terrorist Attack in Paris: We Need More Than Solidarity.

Paris

We Need Our Voices and We Need Tolerance.

I sat at my computer and kept hitting refreshing a variety of websites and Twitter feeds.

The radio was on too.

People had been killed in a terrorist attack in Paris. Journalists.

The attack was at the newspaper that had once published the famous cartoon of Prophet Muhammad. It is the deadliest attack in France in 50 years.  We often think that it’s only war journalists that put their life at risk, but attacks on the press happen around the world. 

I am not a war journalist, or an op-ed writer for a large scale global publication, or a political columnist. But when I spend my life making money from my words and are comfortable in writing what I believe and feel secure in doing so, I feel extremely sensitive to anything that happens to my global journalist family.

That’s why #jesuischarlie has struck such a chord. 

Any time a journalist dies for doing their job, I cringe. But usually it’s on the other side of the world. On this day it was in the city that I live in and it’s hard to not be shaken. 

I scrolled through Twitter feeds, the sign of our 24-hour news cycle world where one can follow along and make our own commentary on any major event that takes place.

There they were, the classic comments that so often appear in moments like this:

“My thoughts are with them…”

“I’m praying for Paris…”

Certainly, unless a moment like this is part of the public conscience, change will not happen. But thoughts and prayers are far from enough.

Praying and thinking are our comfortable options. They are, in a sense, a cop out. They are what we can do in the peace of our own homes. We retweet something, repost a photo on Instagram, change our profile pictures on Facebook to whatever image symbolizes our solidarity.

But in this day and age, we also need action.

Not just today, every day. We need to show solidarity today, but we can’t forget the fight tomorrow.

We need to face hate straight on, whenever it appears in our everyday lives. We need to have the uncomfortable conversations that we so often choose to avoid.

I thought back to a conversation I had over the holidays where mildly racist comments were made. I tried to push back, but in the name of a nice family holiday, didn’t push too hard and eventually dropped my argument.

I chose inaction.

We’ve all been there. We’ve all bitten our tongues to make people in a social setting comfortable. But inaction and silence is simply accepting the status quo.

We must work together to build a society of tolerance and acceptance and that starts with every single one of our own relationships. It begins with our own comments and perceptions.

We need to raise our voices. We have to make the song of tolerance heard around the world.

I saw Iyad El-Baghdadi post this on Twitter:

“Showing solidarity with the victims is necessary, but not enough. We must insist to coexist, and reject those who don’t. #CharlieHebdo”

Do we insist on coexistence and tolerance or do we turn the other way?

We must stand together. Take action in the way that Sydney did after the recent hostage crisis with the #illridewithyou campaign. Stretch out our hands across the cultural divide. We cannot let this event fuel xenophobia; that’s when hatred and intolerance win out over humanity.

We must use our voices and choose tolerance. That is the only way forward.

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Author: Anna Brones

Editor: Ashleigh Hitchcock

Photo: flickr

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