Overal in Europa wordt met ontzetting gereageerd op de dodelijke aanslagen in Parijs. Deze middag omstreeks 12u00 vonden er in tal van Europese steden herdenkingsmomenten plaats waarbij vele mensen hun medeleven wensten te betuigen voor de slachtoffers en hun familie. In Brugge organiseerde de Franse Gemeenschap van het Europacollege een herdenkingsplechtigheid waarbij een minuut stilte werd gehouden. De vlaggen werden op tal van stadsgebouwen halfstok gehangen. Als burgemeester was ik dan ook aanwezig op deze herdenkingsplechtigheid in het Europacollege.

Het is net in deze donkere periode van geweld en intolerantie dat solidariteit en samenhorigheid benadrukt dienen te worden. Dit probeerde ik ook duidelijk te maken met onderstaande speech waarbij ik de jongeren een hart onder de riem wou steken.

“You are the voices of tolerance and peace”

“Last Friday, again the values of peace and tolerance were undermined by terrorism in Paris. Innocent people were killed by random cowardice attacks throughout the city. More than 120 victims lost their live and many others still suffer terrible injuries. Sadly, violence is more than ever prevalent in our world. Several terrorist organisations spread hate, divide nations and create a sense of ‘them’ as opposed to ‘us’.

After the cruel attack on the offices of Charlie Hebdo at the beginning of this year, hundreds of students of the College of Europe gathered in solidarity with the victims and in the defense of freedom of speech. These acts of sympathy, tolerance and unity are the best weapon against groups who want to create hatred, fear and disorder. I was hoping that I would never have had to see you again in this kind of circumstances. Sadly enough we are here again…

Besides the grief, the pain and the desperation, it still makes me hopeful to see young people from different nationalities unite against the scourge of violent extremism and terrorism. Thank you, students of the College of Europe, for your solidarity with victims of terrorism and other hate crimes. You reflect the voice and the views of the majority of people, the people who won’t stand violence. The people who don’t refer to their fellow man as ‘they’, but as ‘us’.

You are the voices of tolerance and peace.
You won’t let terrorism silence you.

Thank you for that, we need people like you in dark times.”