Our imaginations can only conjure flashes of the horror that slashed through Nice last night as we come to terms with yet another terrorist attack on France. On a night that they met to celebrate the liberté, égalité and fraternité of their republic’s founding they were forced instead to remind the world that their cry must always be stronger than the terrorists who cannot let others speak.
As we mourn for them, two further responses are demanded from us.
The first is simple. Our reply to this brutality has to repudiate everything the attackers stand for and the message must ring clear that Europe will remain a fortress of freedom and democracy no matter what.
The second is more difficult. We have to expand our compassion and extend the hand of friendship to take in everybody who faces the same evil we face. From Birmingham to Basra we have a common enemy and our conception of self must reflect that. This grinding violence will not make France feel further away from us, yet the endless terrorist attacks in Lebanon, Turkey, Syria and Iraq each month have made those places feel more distant. Our experiences may diverge, but we are all making a daily declaration that we will want to live freely. We have to be brave enough to recognise our closeness to these people too.
When 84 people are killed in Nice and 292 are killed in Baghdad, as on the 3rd July, amongst the horror and sorrow, we must also feel urgent sense of our common humanity and our shared duty to confront ISIS swiftly and resolutely. Every victim of these attacks was killed because they dared to live free. We offend the terrorists in exactly the same way and in that, we stand united with all victims of terror.