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Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité: Maxime Francois (LLM 2013) on the Paris attacks

14 December 2015

Maxime Claude Nersès Francois (LLM 2013) is currently working as legal counsel for Thalès in Paris, and personally knew three of the victims of the attacks on 13 November. Here, he reflects that while the attacks were an assault on his country, its people and its values, they also prompted unprecedented solidarity from his fellow Bristol alumni around the world.

No one can pretend to ignore what happened in Paris on the evening of 13 November. As a former Bristol University student and a French national living in Paris, I was a witness to one of the darkest moments of French history which triggered many reactions around the world and I wanted to write about it since writing is part of the healing process.

Liberté – Freedom

The terrorist attacks which took place in Paris deeply affected multiple freedoms cherished by many Parisians. Going to the stadium to see a soccer match, to restaurant and cafes to enjoy some Friday drinks or to concert halls to listen to music became dangerous actions which lead to the deaths of more than a hundred lives. When terrorism hit Paris in January of this year, the targets were identified: they were caricaturists from the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, they were policemen, and they were people from the Jewish community. But this time no one was specifically targeted as the aim was to mass murder a huge number of Parisian people. No designated religion, no designated job or cultural affiliations were put forward by terrorists, just the plain idea of killing.

This was an attempt to kill the idea of freedom, the freedom of living. 

Egalité – Equality

These attacks are also epitomising the breach towards the principle of equality which feeds the French tradition. In a country where since 1789 every human should be treated as equal without any discrimination and difference, the act of some are meant to dictate the reactions of others. Even if we are not equal towards death, some people, in the name of an interpretation of their religion, just decided to end lives sooner than they should last. If no specific gender, religion was targeted, youth was mostly hit by the Paris attacks. Equality, along with freedom, means that you have some choices in your lives: some people are religious, some are not, some drink alcohol and some decide not to, and there is an infinite list of examples such as those.

This was an attempt to kill the idea that everyone is equal towards making their own choices, and unfortunately the aim was reached.

Fraternité – Brotherhood

If my message started on a pessimist mood, it will end with a brighter one. Brotherhood was represented through all the reactions post-attacks in Paris. It was symbolized by the people from Paris who spontaneously opened their doors for the wounded and those who could not get back home to safety, by the people on social networks and media encouraging Paris to become strong again through the terror and through the international reaction in general. I personally received messages from my LLM friends from all around the world, whether they come from the USA, Cyprus, Greece, India, Kenya, St Vincent and Grenadines, Malaysia, Thailand, Germany… All were showing both support and kindness and believe me in harsh times like those I lived it makes a huge difference.  

This was an attempt to kill the idea of brotherhood, it did not succeed.