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On the tragic events in Paris: an attack on freedom and human dignity

We live in an uncertain, fragile world.

And yet in this world, there is joy. We find a way, through the hardships of life, the pains, the tribulations, the daily struggles, to make life mean something more.

We socialise. We enjoy the pleasures of music or a good book. We watch films. We play sports. We enjoy a drink, or a meal. We find joy, and happiness, in life itself. And we can do so freely, whatever our tastes may be, so long as we do not harm others.

In a city like Paris, all interests are catered for. It is a city characterised not so much by its politics, architecture, or history as it is by life itself. By joy. By the bustle of humanity. By the diverse preferences and tastes of millions living side by side.

And yet life itself, the joy of living, was the target of Islamic extremists with a burning hatred for these very freedoms on Friday night, killing well over 100 people. They did not attack infrastructure, politicians, military personnel, or sites of historical or cultural significance. They targeted innocent people, going about their lives, trying to make it through this difficult and complicated world with a modicum of fun and lightness. Something we all aspire to.

It was, in every sense, an attack on multiculturalism; an attack on how we find happiness, outside the confines of a strict religious code of submission; an attack on the secular, enlightened spirit embodied by Paris’s vibrant, varied culture.

Our hearts go out to all those affected, over the world. And not just by events in Paris but those in Beirut and Syria and everywhere the cruel hand of religious extremism is felt.

Today we make one request of you. And it is a simple one.

Enjoy your life.

Make it count.

And don’t let the murderers win. 

Our dream is of a tolerant, open society with a secular state ensuring the human rights of everyone, where we can all go about living the kinds of lives we want for ourselves.

That dream, that essential humanist cause, is now more important than ever.

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