Seattleites pray for Paris and for humanity at vigil

People gathered Sunday outside of Ines Patisserie in Capitol Hill in Seattle for a vigil honoring the victims of last week's attacks on Paris. (Photo by Megan Herndon.)
People gathered Sunday outside of Ines Patisserie in Capitol Hill in Seattle for a vigil honoring the victims of last week’s attacks on Paris. (Photo by Megan Herndon.)

Two days after Friday’s attacks in Paris, described as the worst on France since World War II, Seattleites gathered Sunday at Ines Patisserie in Capitol Hill for a vigil.

Their prayers, like the impact of the attacks, go beyond the French borders.

“My heart sank,” said Veronique Savoye, who runs a local language school and a blog called French Girl in Seattle. She spoke by phone before Sunday’s vigil. “I just thought ‘not again’ because it just happened in January with Charlie Hebdo…. It had an air of déjà vu, but this one of course was much worse in terms of casualties.”

A bomb was set off outside a soccer game between France and Germany at Stade de France, followed by shootings at local restaurants and the Bataclan concert hall. Nearly 130 people were killed. The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has claimed responsibility for the attacks.

“On Friday, I tuned in to the game, we were ready to get our revenge on Germany from the World Cup,” said Nohra Belaid, a French native who owns Ines Patisserie. “I heard one of the commentators say ‘Wow, they’re already celebrating, there’s something blowing up.’ I could hear it on the radio…all of a sudden it was just silence, and then it was special news. I couldn’t believe it, it was all so real.”

Belaid organized Sunday’s candlelight vigil and many attendees were Belaid’s close friends who come from French and Lebanese backgrounds.

Belaid said that there is a huge divide between coverage of the attacks in Paris compared to a terrorist attack in Beirut, Lebanon, which killed more than 40 people the day before the attacks in Paris.

“It was completely unnoticed,” she said. “The life of a Frenchman is as valuable as the life of someone from Afghanistan, from Lebanon. If you’re attacked it doesn’t matter which part of the world you are from.”

Belaid thinks the romanticism associated with Paris is part of the reason the world felt so strongly for the city

“People dream of Paris,” Belaid said. “It’s symbolic, which is probably part of why everybody was so touched by this.”

Peirce Kirkham, a University of Washington senior, spent six months of last year studying Middle Eastern political, economic, and social issues at Sciences-Po Menton in southeast France. Her family also has lived in France for the past four years.

“It’s times like these when it’s important to remember the human side,” she said. “There’s this aspect of humanity that transcends cultural and even religious lines. I feel like those are the moments that will help us regain our sense of humanity, that’s what gives me hope.”

She said many of her class discussions in France covered the country’s “identity crisis” since the Charlie Hebdo attacks.

“We spent a lot of time discussing the growing Muslim population and how France is going to include them in their society,” she said. “With the migration crisis and this attack it gets even more complicated.”

Belaid had similar sentiments.

“There are a lot of problems with assimilation for people from second or third generation immigrant families,” she said. “Why do these young men follow these radical clerics who tell them x, y, and z things? Why do they get so easily entangled, to be brainwashed to do this horrible stuff?”

Houari Baraka, a Bellevue resident who attended the vigil, was thinking of the French people this weekend, but also others who were affected by devastating attacks.

Baraka, who is originally from Algeria, said when his Facebook feed was filled with profile pictures filtered with the French flag he posted that he is praying not only for Paris but also for all of humanity.

“To me, anyone who died in a terrorist attack is an innocent person,” Baraka said. “I sympathize with those who have died in Lebanon, Kenya, any place being attacked. Before being me, and before being part of any religion, I am human. All boundaries are broken today.”

Baraka hopes the world knows that ISIS does not represent Islam and the Muslim people.

“I’m a Muslim but sometimes I hear these idiots on TV I want to pull my hair out,” he said. “The Islamic world needs to bring up the real teaching, the teaching I learned from my grandfather: to love each other no matter who they are, no matter what their faith is.”

People gathered Sunday outside of Ines Patisserie in Capitol Hill in Seattle for a vigil honoring the victims of last week's attacks on Paris. (Photo by Megan Herndon.)
People gathered Sunday outside of Ines Patisserie in Capitol Hill in Seattle for a vigil honoring the victims of last week’s attacks on Paris. (Photo by Megan Herndon.)

This post has been updated.

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