The world collectively held its breath the last four days. It began last Wednesday January 7, 2014 with the attack on satirical magazine CHARLIE HEBDO. Just outside of Paris 12 cartoonists, writers, editors were killed. In a connected incident the next day a policewoman was shot and killed. Saturday morning French police killed the attackers in the magazine office brothers Cherif & Said Kouachi and the suspected gunman Amedy Coulibaly of the policewoman in a simultaneous assault. A woman suspected of the attack on the policewoman Hayat Boumeddienne is still at large.
We Filipinos are one with the French people in praying for calm, sobriety and peace in this chaotic and tragic period. In the Philippines, the most recent parallel incident is the Maguindanao Massacre. A total of 35 people were killed most of whom were journalists and broadcasters in November 2009. It had the dubious distinction of the most journalists killed in one day more than any place or time in the world.
Both incidents are similar with the fact that killings were made to silence or prevent Freedom of expression and Freedom of the press. The attack on CHARLIE HEBDO was in retaliation for having Prophet Mohammed as a guest Editor. In the case of the Maguindanao Massacre journalists covering representatives of a mayoral candidate were killed.
The difference is that while the French government’s response has been swift along with international intelligence agencies and governments, the wheels of justice have not quite turned in the Maguindanao Massacre. Nearly 6 years later the Ampatuans still stand trial. Witnesses have been threatened and outright murdered as well. Just a day or two before writing this piece the residence of a witness was strafed by machine gun fire.
More Muslim Victims
Whether in the Philippines, France there seems to be no safe haven from jihadist or extremist violence and attacks on Freedom of speech. More than ever message of tolerance and support especially for Muslims whether in France or around the world must be spread. Hours after the Charlie Hebdo attack a grenade was thrown at a mosque in Le Mans and gunshots were fired at a Muslim prayer hall in the Port-la-Nouvelle district.
The immediate reaction of anyone in the face of violence is to get back at someone. Often such reactions are not based on rational thought. Not realizing the people they are attacking have nothing to do with extremists.
The truth is that the most number of victims by jihadists or extremists are not in the western world they are actually Muslims too. Last December in Pakistan, the Taliban besieged a school killing 145. 132 of those killed were children between the ages of 6-16. ISIS in their quest to establish their Islamic state has killed thousands. Hundreds of thousands more are displaced from their homes in Iraq, Syria, Eastern Libya and parts of Sinai Peninsula all of them mostly Muslims. Media has often been accused of highlighting western victims of terrorism over those in the Middle East or Asia who are also Muslims themselves.
In the aftermath of a jihadist attack in Sydney last December, Australians have taught the world how to be more united. Sydney TV content editor and writer Tessa Kum started the hash tag I’ll ride with you. She was inspired after reading of a woman who felt she had to take off her hair and face cover in fear of backlash against Muslims. Australians not just in Sydney started showing support it spread to other cities in Melbourne, Perth and eventually even around the world. Kum was able to use the power of social media to promote tolerance, a much-needed message of unity for Australians and NOW France in the wake of tragic violence.
Channel of Peace
For the record I was born and raised Catholic just like 80% of Filipinos. We thank the French people for donating the Papal prayer books for the upcoming visit of Pope Francis January 15. Just like France we also have a considerable population of Muslim brothers. We also have an extremist group called Abu Sayaaf (Bearer of the Sword), with ties to Al Qaeda. They DO NOT however represent the vast majority of law abiding, peaceful Muslim Filipinos.
The day following the Hebdo attack Parisians lit candles in the streets and raised pens showing the superiority of the written and drawn word over the sword. Let Twitter, Facebook be our channels for peace and courage. The power of the pen has evolved into the reach and influence of social media. Extremists thrive on ignorance, poverty and intolerance. It is up to every one of us to be vigilant and spread messages of unity, support.
French President Francoise Hollande in his speech said, “Unity is our weapon.” But when he called the hostage taking at the Kosher market as Anti Semitic, the Jewish community replied, it is an attack not just to us Jews, Christians, Parisians but also to the Muslims. No we are not afraid said a sign in Paris. It takes even more courage to defy violence through peaceful means. Every one of us has the freedom to make peace.
fb fan page: