Paris has a special place in the hearts of travelers. It’s a place where young Americans choose to be when they first explore Europe, and a source of attraction when they inevitably visit again years later. Millions of us from around the world come to know the city as visitors there. And with familiarity flows special sympathy when tragedy strikes.
The terrorist acts yesterday seem more personal because they targeted the sorts of places any of us might have chosen on a balmy November evening – a café, a concert or a sporting event. These are the places of ordinary Parisians and independent travelers like you and me. The attacks were an assault on hundreds of innocent people and more broadly, on universal human values.
Three months ago I was in Paris with an inspiring group of Western and Islamic youth who talked and sang and laughed together as part of a unique intercultural exchange program, IOU Respect, sponsored by six HI national hostel associations including France and the USA. Among these young people, national and cultural differences seemed sources of interest and inspiration. Yesterday’s perpetrators want our differences to be a source of division and fear.
How can we begin to address what motivates inhumane acts? Or to understand others’ support for them? It starts with bringing people together. That’s what hostels do every day. And programs like IOU Respect deepen our reach.
We mourn for France. And we stand strongly with our mission partner, FUAJ, the French youth hostel association. The future will be brighter because of those who actively seek to improve it. And that is our aim.
Feature image: The tower of the NY World Trade Center lit with colors of the French flag after the Paris terrorist attack.