A young person’s perspective on the Paris and Beirut attacks and aftermath

 

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Written by Daniela Dandes, head of marketing and communication of AIESEC in Belgium

On the evening of November the 13th, around 300 young people were attending an AIESEC conference in De Panne, Belgium. They were present at the national conference, taking part in different sessions and workshops. Everything up to that point felt like an expected AIESEC conference, until the news started spreading: there had been shootings in Paris, explosions in Beirut. More than 100 people were murdered and most of the suspects were suicide bombers that have detonated themselves, either during the attack or before, when they were almost caught. Who was to blame? No one knew. A couple of minutes later, a YouTube video revealed that actually ISIS claimed responsibility for the carnage. The conclusion of the ISIS video though was that there were many more such events to come.

And so, since that Friday, confusion and panic in Western Europe spread out like wildfire.

It has been debated, from public media to private social media accounts, how people should react to these violent happenings. Is it moral to look at the Paris attacks and feel so much indignation? What about the daily shootings that take place in Syria? Why didn’t Facebook put up a Lebanese flag option for the profile pictures? What do these events say about how safe we, in fact, really are? What do these events evoke about the current European policy regarding integration of other cultures? And most importantly, where do we go from here?

This is only a bite size of the questions that run through people’s minds since that November the 13th. The part that is most unsettling about the situation is that we don’t have the answers for them. Especially for the last question, there does not seem to be a one size fits all solution. Our minds are so divided into what justice means and who is to blame, how could we stand united in this matter?

But our hearts are not. All we know, as young people in Belgium, is that the concept of war and the idea of hate are wrong. We sympathize with Paris because it hits close to home, we are taught about France more in world history classes than we are about the Lebanese situation. We care also about what is happening in the Middle East, we want to welcome refugees in a civilized manner. Our hearts are filled with good intentions. At the same time, we are not naïve. We know that this is not something that started a couple of weeks ago. This current situation of confusion and division will not go away if we continue the same way as a society.

AIESEC was built because young people did not want the atrocities of the two World Wars to happen again. Our vision calls for peace and fulfilment of humankind’s potential, not because we are idealistic, but because war and hate destroy more than they build and we are aware of this simple logic. Even though we thought that our mission, especially in countries like Belgium, was obsolete, we now realize that we are still far away from reaching this vision. Discrimination happens, hate speech happens. The fact that military troops can be seen at every street corner in Brussels is proof that we are not at peace. That is why actions are today needed so much. As the Dalai Lama recently said, this is a matter that was started by people and should be dealt with by each and every one of us. Action is more precious now to a changing society, more than just prayer. We should change the viral #PrayFor hashtags into #ActFor.

As young people in this organization, we sometimes feel overwhelmed by what is happening in the world. We feel small. Looking at the political scene, we don’t feel like change is being fostered fast enough by the important decisions that politicians are taking. That’s why we decided to create our own opportunities, because we are tired of waiting. On a daily basis, we are trying to build a better world, either via education and training of young people, by letting them find their purpose or practice activities to find out what they like and don’t like. We develop leadership by sending young people abroad, to become more open minded via cross-cultural exchange. We let them be leaders, so that they can change their view that only people put in functions are leaders. Or that leadership means only being in the spotlight. No, we are encouraging young people, like ourselves, to take up the responsibility and start somewhere, even if it seems small, to make a change.
This is what we are trying to do. We hope you are also trying to change the status quo.

About the writer

Daniela Dandes is the head of marketing and communication of AIESEC in Belgium. Beyond her role, she has a passion for knowledge and the world. That is why her interests cover a wide range of subjects, going from culture, to applied physics, from tech to art. She believes in a holistic approach to life, fact that she tries to apply also to her written pieces.

On the evening of November the 13th, around 300 young people were attending an AIESEC conference in De Panne, Belgium. They were present at the national conference, taking part in different sessions and workshops. Everything up to that point felt like an expected AIESEC conference, until the news started spreading: there had been shootings in Paris, explosions in Beirut. More than 100 people were murdered and most of the suspects were suicide bombers that have detonated themselves, either during the attack or before, when they were almost caught. Who was to blame? No one knew. A couple of minutes later, a YouTube video revealed that actually ISIS claimed responsibility for the carnage. The conclusion of the ISIS video though was that there were many more such events to come.

And so, since that Friday, confusion and panic in Western Europe spread out like wildfire.

It has been debated, from public media to private social media accounts, how people should react to these violent happenings. Is it moral to look at the Paris attacks and feel so much indignation? What about the daily shootings that take place in Syria? Why didn’t Facebook put up a Lebanese flag option for the profile pictures? What do these events say about how safe we, in fact, really are? What do these events evoke about the current European policy regarding integration of other cultures? And most importantly, where do we go from here?

This is only a bite size of the questions that run through people’s minds since that November the 13th. The part that is most unsettling about the situation is that we don’t have the answers for them. Especially for the last question, there does not seem to be a one size fits all solution. Our minds are so divided into what justice means and who is to blame, how could we stand united in this matter?

But our hearts are not. All we know, as young people in Belgium, is that the concept of war and the idea of hate are wrong. We sympathize with Paris because it hits close to home, we are taught about France more in world history classes than we are about the Lebanese situation. We care also about what is happening in the Middle East, we want to welcome refugees in a civilized manner. Our hearts are filled with good intentions. At the same time, we are not naïve. We know that this is not something that started a couple of weeks ago. This current situation of confusion and division will not go away if we continue the same way as a society.

AIESEC was built because young people did not want the atrocities of the two World Wars to happen again. Our vision calls for peace and fulfilment of humankind’s potential, not because we are idealistic, but because war and hate destroy more than they build and we are aware of this simple logic. Even though we thought that our mission, especially in countries like Belgium, was obsolete, we now realize that we are still far away from reaching this vision. Discrimination happens, hate speech happens. The fact that military troops can be seen at every street corner in Brussels is proof that we are not at peace. That is why actions are today needed so much. As the Dalai Lama recently said, this is a matter that was started by people and should be dealt with by each and every one of us. Action is more precious now to a changing society, more than just prayer. We should change the viral #PrayFor hashtags into #ActFor.

As young people in this organization, we sometimes feel overwhelmed by what is happening in the world. We feel small. Looking at the political scene, we don’t feel like change is being fostered fast enough by the important decisions that politicians are taking. That’s why we decided to create our own opportunities, because we are tired of waiting. On a daily basis, we are trying to build a better world, either via education and training of young people, by letting them find their purpose or practice activities to find out what they like and don’t like. We develop leadership by sending young people abroad, to become more open minded via cross-cultural exchange. We let them be leaders, so that they can change their view that only people put in functions are leaders. Or that leadership means only being in the spotlight. No, we are encouraging young people, like ourselves, to take up the responsibility and start somewhere, even if it seems small, to make a change.
This is what we are trying to do. We hope you are also trying to change the status quo.

About the author

Daniela Dandes AIESEC
Daniela Dandes is the head of marketing and communication of AIESEC in Belgium. Beyond her role, she has a passion for knowledge and the world. That is why her interests cover a wide range of subjects, going from culture, to applied physics, from tech to art. She believes in a holistic approach to life, fact that she tries to apply also to her written pieces.

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