Action in the wake of the Paris attacks

As all our readers well know, on November 13 2015, 130 innocent people were killed, and 368 injured, in Paris. The attacks on the Bataclan theatre, Stade de France and 11th-arrondissement restaurants were shocking not just for their volume and extreme violence, but for how they targeted civilians engaging in an almost universal activity: socialising on what should have been a normal Friday evening. The attacks honed in not on political or military practices, but on cultural ones:  relaxing at a terrace bar, watching a football game, dining with friends, listening to a music concert. Oberkampf is a hipster neighbourhood, and the attacks largely affected a young demographic. For the second time this year, terrorists targeted not just a Parisian population, but a Parisian way of life.

hotel du louvre

Having already written a similar piece only a few months ago, at first I was too disheartened to add my own voice to the cacophony of reactions to the events of November 13. In particular, the almost simultaneous bombings in Beirut, and this week’s attacks in Bamako, have made the situation even more difficult to bear. Many have written more poetically and comprehensively about the crisis. But silence feels like an unacceptable response, in the midst of the many hateful snap reactions that have been made against the world’s Muslim population, and especially against the many vulnerable refugees currently fleeing Syria and other war-torn states.

Instead of attempting to compete with the many beautiful testimonies that have appeared online since the Friday before last, I would like to provide a different kind of response. That is, by outlining some of the practical ways in which we as an online Francophone community can contribute to public discourse and action in the wake of the 2015 terrorist attacks on France and many other locations in the world.

1. Donate

In the days following the attacks, Paris hospitals had to turn away a surplus of blood donors. It is stories like this, as well as the #porteouverte hashtag that sprang up on the very night of the 13th, that convince us Paris will endure. But there are many ways we can also show hospitality and generosity, including in our own communities.

To help refugees in Melbourne/Victoria:

Contribute goods to the food bank at RISE

Teach English to recently arrived refugees through AMES

Volunteer with the Refugee Council of Australia

Support the Australian Red Cross Refugee Appeal

Donate time and/or money to Save the Children campaigns

To support France and emergency situations abroad:

Donate to Les Restos du Coeur, France’s brilliant soup kitchen network that feeds the disadvantaged

Donate to La Croix Rouge Française

Donate to Médecins sans frontières

Here are some other local suggestions for how to help.

2. Speak up

The Internet is a simultaneously wonderful and horrifying place, and I wish I could say I’ve seen just as many progressive rants online as oppressive ones in the past couple of weeks. Through social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter, blogging, and of course speaking up in real life, especially if you witness aggression, here are some ways to make your voice heard:

Promote local support organisations and events (like this one or this one) that may not have the means to advertise themselves or expand their reach very far on their own.

Check the local news, not just the world news; small-scale causes need our attention as well. For example, you can support the construction of the first mosque in Bendigo, the source of severe protests over the last few months.

Sign and promote petitions (like this one, this one or this one– they come and go regularly); sharing such viewpoints on Facebook and elsewhere can have more impact than you might expect. Keep up to date at change.org and getup.org.au to find or begin new ones.

Also, share the videos below (which I’ve chosen for their clarity and brevity, making them easier to disseminate online).

3. Learn

As a university-based blog, we understand the power of education. And the situation in Syria is painfully complex, so education has a major role to play in how we speak about it. Here are some accessible video resources that explain how the group claiming responsibility for November 13 has gained traction and why the refugee crisis has unfolded the way it has. Watch, share and help dispel ignorance about these complex places and situations:

Syria’s War: A Five-Minute History

Understanding the Refugee Crisis in Syria, Europe and Around the World

Iraq Explained- ISIS, Syria and War

The European Refugee Crisis and Syria Explained

Reza Aslan on CNN (a year-old video, but an informative take [and an impressive take-down])

Islam and Politics: Crash Course in World History

Social alienation in home states is one of the most profound factors in fuelling processes that lead to radicalisation. After January 2015, a great deal of hyperbolic and damaging discourse about Paris’ banlieues circulated. Online projects like Portraits de No Go Zones can go a long way to combating reductive views of multicultural, working-class urban areas in Paris and beyond.

Do you have any other suggestions for how readers can contribute to positive change in the wake of the terrorist events of 2015? Please share in the comments.

By Gemma King.

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About frenchatmelbourne

Students, alumni and friends of the Melbourne University French Studies Network

3 comments

  1. Pingback: Paris, je t’aime | Reflections on the Paris attacks | Patricia Parisienne

  2. Pingback: The Year in Review | French at Melbourne

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