French youth bats for peace

  • Rameshinder Sandhu, Hindustan Times, Ludhiana
  • Updated: Jan 15, 2015 18:26 IST

In India for an exchange programme, French students speak to Rameshinder Singh Sandhu about the recent terror attack in Paris and the need for a united march for global peace.

Author Terry Waite once said, “The terrible thing about terrorism is that ultimately it destroys those who practice it. Slowly but surely, as they try to extinguish life in others, the light within them dies.”

HT City spoke to a group of French students at the Punjab College of Technical Education (PCTE), Ludhiana, who were in Paris when a horrific terror attack was witnessed recently, leaving the world shocked. Students of University of Angers, France, they are now in India for a three-month educational exchange programme.

Seventeen people were killed in Paris last week in attacks at satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, on a police officer, and at a kosher supermarket.

Condemning the attacks in Paris, they shared, “It has left us very disturbed and since it was an attack on a magazine office, it has also slapped the right to freedom of speech and expression.”

“I was in a jovial mood immersed in packing my suitcase for my visit to India but as all news channels and radio stations began reporting on this tragedy, I felt numb,” said 22-year-old David Christophe, while Melody Mendoza, 23, instantly telephoned all her friends who couldn’t believe the intensity of the episode at first.

“We had only two words to discuss: ‘why’ and ‘how’, with no answers at all. Within minutes, there was security deployed in every nook and cranny as grief engulfed us,” she added.

Mendoza also shared that the lights of the Eiffel Tower were dimmed the same evening. Marc Peignon, 25, said “A nationwide silence was observed. Students here on the PCTE campus are curious to know the details of the incident. Besides, it has been encouraging to see so many world leaders join the march against terrorism with France.”

Another exchange student from France, Sandrine Dautreme, 22, was not too far from the street where hostages and Paris killers were shot in a market on January 9. She shared that on learning about the shooting, she like many other Parisians fled home instantaneously. “We regularly scan all the French dailies via internet to get the latest updates,” she added.

The French students conceded that terrorism had become a global challenge and emphasised on how there was an urgent need for countries to stand united to promote global peace and discourage any kind of terrorist activity.

“We are all witness to the fact that people from all over have shown their support to France thanks to social networking websites. People of all age groups have been supporting the slogan ‘Je suis Charlie’ (I am Charlie) that refers to freedom of expression and speech,” they shared.

On being asked what were the major challenges faced by the French youth, they said all they wished for was world peace.

“The Peshawar incident that killed so many innocent children was also very unfortunate. We hope and pray that such instances never occur again and the world marches towards peace and kindness,” said Peignon.

Expectations from exchange programme

Laying emphasis on the importance of globalisation, the students shared the need to study and understand various cultures of the world.

“We are very eager to explore the cultural issues of India and are busy formulating plans to explore famous tourist destinations, including Agra, Amritsar, Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh and even Goa, if time permits,” said Dautreme.

Another student added “You also learn how the other half of the world lives as it has been rightly said that one half of the world does not know how the other half lives.”

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