The world will remember January 7, 2015, as it does September 11, 2001, as the day France suffered a massive terrorist attack. Twelve people were assassinated and many others seriously wounded, by Islamic fanatics armed with kalashnikovs in the center of Paris. The victims, besides the two policemen appointed to protect the premises and the people who worked there, were staff-members of “Charlie Hebdo”, a weekly satirical publication known and loved all over France. As I write, thousands of French people are spontaneously gathering in cities throughout the country, bearing candles and banners with a slogan expressing their outrage and solidarity with the victims of this attack against the liberty of expression and the freedom of speech (which make a free Press and this Blog possible). The slogan is : “Je suis Charlie”, “I am Charlie”.
As an Australian become a French citizen, I have chosen to borrow for France today the title of the recently released Australian film portraying the tragedy of the country’s Aborigines. France has become Charlie’s Country, the country of Charlie Hebdo. Today we and our most precious national value have suffered the tragic fate, and paid the heavy price, of many who defend liberty in all its forms. Our rage and grief tonight are stronger than our fear. They will, tomorrow, be accompanied by a united national determination to shield ourselves against an irrational racism and vengeance towards innocent Muslims, but also by the temptation to give into frustration, impotence and despair. For we know, as do victims of fundamentalist terrorism everywhere, especially in the U.S. after 9/11, and just recently in Australia after the massacre of Martin Place, that we are terribly vulnerable to the violence born of religious fanaticism. We shall be severely tested in the days and years ahead.