By Ysabel Viau
Member of the RIVO Board of Directors
Perspective of my sojourn in the English capital during the attack on the Parliament
When the London attack occurred last March 22nd, I was there. Fortunately, not on Westminster Bridge or anywhere near the Parliament in Westminster Palace. I was having tea with a dear friend in the comfort of her beautiful home in South West London. Messenger pinged a message from a friend in Ottawa, then another from Montreal, then another and another, asking if I was ok, given the attack…
I turned on the TV in the family room and sat on the comfy couch with my friend and her teenage daughter. The events were streaming on the 40-inch screen, the dog was barking, the teenager was texting and my friend was chatting with her hubby on the phone. The chaos unfolding in Central London was an episode of crazy in an otherwise ordinary moment.
Composed, factual media
The British media played the attack wisely. The classy, composed Brits focused on the victims, the heroes who helped them, and the facts. The actual facts: A chronology of events, the condition of the victims, and what to know to get home safely.
Handling such tragedies is often about finding normal through crazy. But mostly, it is about finding humanity in inhumanity. It is certainly not about blasting the perpetrator’s name and photo on every front pages and media feeds, elevating his status to media sensation. In a nutshell, Londoners have understood better than all other unfortunately afflicted nation that maybe, just maybe it is time to focus on the real things. Real people, real facts, reality.
Quickly back to the quotidian
On the day following the attack, Londoners held a vigil in Trafalgar Square. A few days later, on the Saturday, a large crowd gathered around Westminster Palace. They regrouped to show their pro-EU colours, their opposition to populist-led Brexit and their openness to people of all nationalities, races, and beliefs. People of all ages, some adorned in EU flags or in Union Jacks, some pushing baby carriages or walking their dogs.
Although the crowd was significant, there was but a handful of “bobbies” to provide security. No need than for any normal amicable gathering. In fact, security was minimal and discreet. As I walked through the crowd, I felt no apprehension, no fear, no insecurity. I felt as though I was a Londoner, joining my voice to that of my peers. A voice calling for peace and unity.
These Londoners assembled to pay respect to the victims and the heroes. They did what came most naturally. They united. They then moved on to the normality of their lives, albeit with a heavy heart, holding on to their hope for peace in their quotidian.
So it is not about yet another attack – as they unfold at an unsettlingly regular pace. It is about finding normal in chaos. It is about finding one another for how human we are.
The terror inflictors, if they manage to steal lives along their destructive paths, are failing miserably at stealing souls.
And that is where peace resides: in the souls of tough-as-nails Londoners, Syrians, Iraqis, Somalis, and countless other global citizens afflicted by armed conflicts and organized violence. Global citizens who find peace among their loved ones, their home, their world. Our world.