The new year has started violently in Paris. Twelve people were killed on Wednesday, January 7 in an deliberate terrorist attack by men claiming connection with Al Qaeda. It was a barbaric ruthless attack. One video showed a policeman being gunned down on a sidewalk.
The attack came on the office of Charlie Hebdo a satirical weekly newspaper that regular lampoons Islam. The publication had been under threat and was receiving light police protection. Cartoonists and writers were killed in the slaughter virtually wiping out the editorial staff of the paper.
France has Europe’s largest Muslim population and terrorism and pressure from radical Islam is a continual threat to the tolerant and liberal French culture. France’s reaction to this act will be a critical indicator of what future relations between the growing Muslim population and traditional French institutions will be. Attacking a newspaper and killing its staff strikes at values of free speech, fraternity and liberty–bedrock values across the European Community.
Neither France nor Europe needs an attack like this. Should others follow you could expect a reaction that could escalate relations between the Muslim and native populations. The EU system is struggling economically. It is still figuring out how to react to Russia’s incursions into Ukraine.
Last year Pope Francis told the EU Parliament in Strasbourg that Europe gave "a general impression of weariness and aging, of a Europe which is now a ‘grandmother,’ no longer fertile and vibrant”. That’s not a ringing endorsement from the pontiff. Attacks like this will one day bring Europe to an action that will rouse latent forces. That time isn’t now but it is coming.
This is a sad moment for the City of Light and the families of those who have been killed. May God’s grace be upon them at this time.