After the attacks on satire magazine "Charlie Hebdo" a young man brought French citizens together to discuss political issues. But now Francois Reyes fears attacks in Paris have left his country too hurt to talk anymore.
How can satire trigger a terrorist attack? When the staff of French satire magazine "Charlie Hebdo" was attacked in January, young French citizens were convinced that there needed to be more discussion of the issues facing their country.
Francois Reyes is the President of Reveil Citoyen (Citizens Awakening), a civic think tank that organizes monthly debates around France for citizens to share their views with each other. During the One Young World Summit in Bangkok, 19-year-old Reyes talked to Deutsche Welle about how his group is coping with the Paris attacks and the trauma of the French people.
DW: What was the motivation to createReveil Citoyen?
Francois Reyes: We created this after Charlie Hebdo, because we believed one of the main problems in France is people getting together and talking. We were very happy about the whole 11th of January movement and all the people that are coming together. But we knew it wasn't going to last, which is why we tried to make it last by having people gather and fight about their different opinions.
We are compiling the propositions and putting it into books and we are sending those books to every single politician. The goal is to have all the sections of France's population represented in debate. This is an incredible opportunity for them - and for us - to have a new voice in a matter and to get the people more interested in politics again. To tell them, this is your life, it is not theirs. You elect them and you vote for them and you giving your vote to someone means that this person has to fight for you.
The idea of Reveil Citoyen was to prevent further hate and extremism in France. How did the recent attacks impact your work?
When the Charlie Hebdo attacks happened, it was all 9/11 [for the French people]. We did not really expect to get hit again. We have been told there is a risk, but it is just not something that you think about every day. So it happened and it's horrible. It is breaking our society even more. After Charlie Hebdo there were attacks on Muslim people and the Muslim community. There were like 160 [attacks] in the whole month, which is more than we had in the year 2014. So we want to prevent that.
We are very afraid that, because of the new attacks, it is going to get even worse. People don't have the same spirit as after Charlie Hebdo. People want revenge. People want to fight back, which is really not the spirit of Reveil Citoyen. The only way to fight back is to be more tolerant and to be more open. I can understand that this is not something that they want right now, because they are feeling angry, so am I. I just feel like we can't let [the victims] down. The people who died, they didn't die for more war, they did not die for more bombs. I think we have to make most of their death through openness and understanding.
Are there concrete measures that Reveil Citoyen wants to take after the Paris attacks?
We are just getting back on track, because we lost someone actually [in the recent attacks]. Our next [debate] is going to be how can we react to what happened? Do we have to have more police? We really hesitated on that, because we felt like it was breaking society even more. But the whole point of Reveil Citoyen is to ask questions that divide people so that the people can unite in them.
In the long term, what we want is that politicians can hear and can understand what we are saying. It is going to be difficult, because they don't want to listen to what a bunch of young people have to say. Some of them did react pretty well and sent us congratulations, the president did, the minister of education did, the minister of foreign relations too, but it doesn't mean that they are going to help us.
After the Paris attacks, it was revealed that the attackers had connections in Belgium and Germany. How can these countries face this issue together?
It's a worldwide problem. The connection between refugees and what happened is going to come up. People are going to think we have terrorism because of the refugee crisis. Which is something we don't believe in. We believe it happened because barbarians are all over the place, and they can be among refugees, they can be among us. The fact, that most of the terrorists were French citizens is living proof that it is not only a French problem. We can travel to Germany, we can travel anywhere around the world with a French passport. I think we need to have a global reaction. I am only worried that they are going to call for more bombs. That I don't want. Nobody wants that.