There were no speeches amidst all the dozens of world leaders, even the President of France Francoise Hollande made sure of that during the Unity rally in Paris. Sunday, January 10, 2015 days after the Hebdo and Kosher supermarket attack the world showed an unprecedented show of unity in Paris.
The day was for symbols, which became stronger than long-winded words and rhetoric. The whole world watched and saw something change for the better. The silent majority of French people who believe in peace, solidarity came out at least 1 million strong in support of CHARLIE HEBDO, in support of the Jewish victims; Je Sui Juif and Muslim victim and slain police officer Ahmed Merabet: Je Sui Ahmed.
The display of unity among the French people was desperately needed. Without it, the whole city and country could have been plunged into chaos and greater internal strife. Fears of a backlash against Muslims are rampant. Hours after the Hebdo attack gunshots were fired and a grenade blast was already heard on a Mosque on the outskirts of Paris. The French Jewish community is on the edge fearing more attacks after the one in the Kosher supermarket. The French were making a statement through action: we are one, we are united against these terrorists attacks, we uphold our freedom of speech and expression whether Jew, Christian, Muslim or Agnostic.
Over and over again during the telecast we hear the phrase strength or tradition of secular society. It’s this nonspiritual form of government in the Republic of France that upholds the rights and freedoms of these different faiths and freedom to not have a religion.
Amb Garachon on Georges Wolinski
The French Embassy along with French nationals and friends in the Philippines also had their own candle lighting ceremony in solidarity with the victims of the Charlie Hebdo attack. The solemn event was held at the Alliance Francaise de Manille last January 14, 2015.
French Amb Gilles Garachon had a personal take on one of the victims, “The terrorists have tried to hit France in the heart. By killing some people who are iconic in France who represent Freedom of Speech. Those people are very well known. Georges Wolinski for example one of the cartoonists was 80 years old. He has been a cartoonist for 60 years. I remember when I was a child flipping through his cartoons I was raised with him in a way. Many French people loved those cartoonists. We have a lot of respect and sympathy for them. By killing them it was hitting France at the heart. It was a real shock when we heard about this we couldn’t believe it. Of course any assassination is very tragic. In this case it was even worse. They tried to hit our soul, which was different.”
According to Wikipedia: Wolinski co-founded the satirical magazine L’Enragé with Jean-Jacques Pauvert and Siné. He served as the editor-in-chief of Hara-Kiri from 1961 to 1970. Wolinski collaborated with the comics artist Georges Pichard to create Paulette, which appeared in Charlie Mensuel and provoked reactions in France during its publication. Wolinski’s work appeared in the daily newspaper Libération, the weekly Paris-Match, L’Écho des savanes and Charlie Hebdo
People Led Unity Rally
Garachon went on to describe the unity rally as being a response coming from the French people, “I’m very proud and grateful because the response was a huge mobilization very simple French people and very simple people worldwide standing up to say ‘No we don’t want this to happen. Killing cartoonists is reprehensible it’s the absolute intolerance. So we want to stand against this.’ This response was beautiful and was the only appropriate response to this kind of act. The right response is not to use the same violence. The right response is to stand you want us to not remain silent. We still want to fight for Freedom of speech. This is part of our soul and you will not take it away from us.”
The Paris Unity Rally is of such historical significance similar to the Fall of the Berlin Wall in 1991 and the first EDSA revolution here in the Philippines, 1986. All events showed how millions of people through peaceful means could unite and usher a new era in their countries and even the world. All three events also represented the people’s clamor for freedom and democracy.
The unity rally in Paris however is unprecedented because of the number of warring nations that were represented and were arm in arm during the march. Before this event no one could have imagined or predicted that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu could link arms with Palestinian Pres. Mahmoud Abbas, Jordanian King Abdullah II and Queen Rania. King Abdullah II is a direct descendant of the prophet Mohammed as noted by CNN’s Fareed Zakariah. Although political rivals former Pres. Sarkozy was one of the first to be at Hollande’s side during the tragedy.
Manly Beso beso
On the lighter side, as the march wound up Pres. Francoise Hollande in a show of deep gratitude for the presence of the leaders gave a very sincere beso beso, (kiss on the cheek) even to his male counterparts. The practice is very French and is also common to European / Mediterranean countries. Filipinos have also adopted this customary greeting from the Spanish. Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, EU parliament president Martin Schulz, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker readily returned the greeting. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as former military man not used to open display of intimacy as an alternative gave a firm handshake instead.
There is no denying that there is a long road for France in preventing future attacks. French society must also look at how the young, unemployed, Muslim immigrants can be better integrated. There’s also no denying that there is still a very deep chasm between the Israelis, Palestinans and the rest of the Muslim world. But at the very least the two sides have come together to condemn these attacks against France. Whether it leads to real peace in the Middle East region only time will tell. Without the unity rally the situation could only get worse.
Worldwide statements of support
Amb Garachon was thankful for the show of warmth and support form the Philippine side: “It’s a very good response. All the people I have met including your President Benigno Aquino III, including your Foreign Secretary Albert Del Rosario and Finance Secretary Cesar V. Purisima. All the people I’ve met told me about their support and their condolences. Some of them told me even in French language Je Sui Charlie! The response has been tremendous and wonderful. It’s a great support, comfort and pleasure to hear this because when this happened the last thing you want is to feel lonely. We had a wonderful response from all our friends world wide and especially the Philippines. I’m very grateful for that.”
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