Liberty, Equality, Fraternity

The massacre at Charlie Hebdo has sent reverberations around the world.

As educators we have to try and make sense of it all to help our pupils put it into a context that they can understand. Newspapers are naturally focusing on the act being an attack on liberty.

Four million Parisians taking part in a peaceful demonstration highlights how strongly people feel about the right to speak, the right to express their views. Solidarity in numbers, solidarity in views.

Much has been made of the three values engrained in the French culture, Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité, whilst the first two words are essential for an open and just society, I believe the importance of fraternity must not be overlooked.

Last week, Rev Dr Sam Wells on Radio Four’s Thought for the Day articulated this view so beautifully. We live in a world richly mixed with different cultures, traits and religions and if we truly want liberty we have to ensure that we reconcile our differences between these different groups. Fraternity is key. We cannot strive for freedom without some understanding of the responsibility this brings.

A random act from extremists does not represent the views, nor the people, of that religion and yet in times like this, instead of embracing the different religions, we begin to view them with fear.

Our role as a school is to teach our pupils to accept people for who they are, celebrate our differences and always work hard at bringing people together in a respectful way, to live without fear of one and other.

In light of the tragedy in Paris this is a message I have once again reiterated within our school community. I have asked our girls to reflect upon what it means to them to live peacefully side by side.

I hope this message is embraced far beyond the gates of Bedford Girls’ School.

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