In the wake of the devastating terror attacks on Beirut, Baghdad and now Paris, we see the world coming together to show solidarity. This reaction is both powerful and heartbreaking. It clearly demonstrates that the terrorists’ atrocities are seen as an attack on all of us, and that they have to be defeated by mobilizing joint forces internationally.
This past weekend I experienced a mix of emotions: I was sad, angry – and at the same time fearful for my children’s future. But I said to myself: we must all face the fears created by this weekend’s horrifying acts.
My first French encounter
Many of us have a dear relationship to France and the French people. I experienced France for the first time during the 1968 Winter Olympics in Grenoble when I was only 12 years old. Although I was glued to the T.V. cheering for the Norwegian national team, I remember hearing the roaring cheers when Jean-Claude Killy won the gold medal in downhill skiing.
In years since, I have visited France several times for both work and pleasure. During each visit, I have always encountered beautiful places and hospitable, warm people. One of my fondest adult memories is of bicycling in the Loire Valley for a month trying to improve my French. I had some success, but more important, I learned so much about French culture, cuisine, history and way of life.
Although not everyone has had the opportunity to visit France, most of us can say we have some type of connection to the country – be it through film, music, food and wine, or history. I think we can all agree that our memories are filled with love and admiration for France. I believe this is why it is so much harder to grasp the tragedy unfolding when terrorists slaughter women and men, girls and boys.
The bombings in Beirut and Baghdad, as well as in Brussels, Copenhagen, Moscow, Nairobi, and the Charlie Hebdo killings in Paris, are evidence that these acts of terror have an international presence and present a global problem. These attacks may be taking place in different locations around the world, but they have one obvious thing in common: they’re attacks on innocent, civilian lives.
My own country has also experienced an inconceivable act of terror, on July 22, 2011. Four years later we still feel the pain and loss, as I know France will for a long time.
More must be done
We’ve done a lot already, but it’s obvious we need to do more. As individuals, we need to take responsibility for educating our children to be respectful of other religions and beliefs and show empathy and understanding. Only in that way will they – and we – become true global citizens. We need to mobilize and engage youths, political and religious leaders, civil society and local communities. Together we must create a broad international strategy that targets education, poverty, legal issues, finance and money laundering, while promoting women’s empowerment, inclusion and effective use of social media.
In the two years I’ve lived in Washington, I have seen the U.S. government doing commendable work on ensuring that newcomers are assimilated and integrated into their communities. This is something we can all learn from.
It’s important to stand together against terrorism. At the end of the month, France will be hosting COP21, an international climate summit. It’s good to learn that the summit will still take place as planned, giving world leaders a platform to demonstrate their solidarity and not let important environmental dialogues be derailed by acts of terrorism.
And next summer, France will host the UEFA EURO 2016 final tournament in soccer, yet another event to show solidarity. We must not be frightened and stay away – otherwise the terrorists will have succeeded.
The fight against terrorism is a long one – and success is dependent on a unified force and a clear strategy. If we are successful, we can illuminate fear and suffering, destruction of individual rights and freedoms, and give the world back to our future generations.