The past week, here in France, has forced me to look at what it means to be a foreigner here. I love the country with a passion but am forced to reflect.
Do I really understand France?
No matter where one lives one gravitates towards people who have the same values as ourselves. People with whom we are comfortable. Life slips by and our circle of friends and acquaintances expands. But the mosaic of their beliefs and values remains pretty consistent with our own.
In Africa our circle contained many Muslim people. Not surprising because 98% of the population of the area, where we lived, was Muslim. Here in France we can count only one Muslim among our acquaintance…..
What we read is also a reflection of who and what we are. When searching for something to read on a magazine stand I was never tempted to take up Charlie Hebdo. I often perused the cover but most times I either did not get the satire or I found it distasteful. But because I am in France I have the choice to spend my money on another magazine. The editors of Charlie Hebdo have the right to publish it.
For this reason I decided to participate in the Unity marches on Sunday.
It was a very dignified affair in our little adopted village. and in the afternoon I went to a neighbouring town where a bigger, less well organised, and less dignified, march took place.
Here are some images from these two marches.
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The press has reported that almost 4 million people participated in marches around the country. The population of France is 66.03 million (2013 census). Six percent of the people of France participated in these unity marches – where were the other 94%?
If a march was organised next Sunday to show solidarity for the thousands of Nigerians kidnapped or killed by extremists in that country what percentage of any population would turn out?