On Monday morning I re-read the Head’s blog which was written on the 9th January 2015. Social media back then was in solidarity with France and ‘Je suis Charlie’ was the hashtag.
I wrote that ‘the strengths of the community and the values that bind it are always stronger than the malice and ignorance of those who would seek to undo it.’
The response to last Friday’s attacks in Paris reflects this reality. It has been shaped tremendously by young people all over the world. It has not passed them by that the casualties were overwhelmingly young men and women. Going to a concert, having a few drinks with friends or watching the big game are very normal activities for young people in the West. Their freedoms and lifestyles are appreciated by their peers from other countries who are perhaps less fortunate but equally full of life, energy and aspiration. I was very interested to read via BBC News the opinions of young Iranians who felt that Friday was not only an assault on France but also a violation of their own hopes and dreams.
President Hollande has called for the French to be ‘pitiless’ in their response to Friday’s acts of terrorism. It does seem increasingly likely that the West will become more involved in the Syrian crisis, but one would hope that our involvement is measured, objective and strategic for we do not want to play into the hands of those who would provoke us in order to have us appear to give legitimacy to their perversion.
Again, Isis does not speak for Islam. The renowned Muslim scholar Muhammad Al-Yaqoubi calls on all Muslims to refute Isis, to deny any legitimacy in its ‘caliphate’ and to take the struggle to it.
The global perspective I wrote about and called for last January has been developing at OSH through mock elections, evening lectures and a ‘China Day’. Last summer, pupils came back from India and America with many stories about how we are different one hand, yet have so much in common on the other. On Monday 7th December we will hold a Model United Nations and give our pupils an opportunity to discuss and debate further the challenges of terrorism and Islamism, as well as the matter of integration and economic development which must be equally important parts of the solution.
The young people at this school and countless others across the democracies of Europe and beyond are custodians of a future which, I am sure, will see them ‘not overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good’. Look around you at young people today; reflect on their measured response to the challenges that lie ahead. You will have good grounds for optimism, despite the suffering we currently endure.