The evening of 13 November was calamitous and devastating for France, as 129 lives were lost during a series of coordinated terrorist attacks characterized by mass shootings, suicide bombings and hostage-taking in Paris and Saint-Denis. Three suicide bombings occurred outside the Stade de France in Saint-Denis, while four locations in Paris were rocked by another suicide bombing and mass shootings.
The attacks were the deadliest in France since World War II and the deadliest in the European Union since the Madrid train bombings of 2004. On Friday morning, the French Embassy held a memorial service at the National Museum, which was attended by Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi, leaders of the Catholic and Anglican churches and representatives from the Botswana Muslim Society.
French Ambassador to Botswana Anne de la Blache said the memorial service was to mourn the victims, most of whom were under 30; and also to share Botswana’s compassion with their families and loved ones who are experiencing the most terrible pain and horror. It was also an occasion, said Blache, to pay tribute to those who did their courageous duty to avert more casualties like security forces and individuals who were heroic in the tragic circumstances.
“The Jihadists are definitely misusing religion to justify their terrorist activities. Since last Saturday, numerous Heads of States and International Organizations as well as leaders of the civil society and NGOs sent messages of condolence and support,” said Blache. She added that different religious authorities have also pointed out that using God’s name to justify acts of barbarity and create hatred was blasphemy.
“Pope Francis, the Patriarchs of Iraq, Syria and Istanbul, The Orthodox metropolitan, the World Council of Churches, the Protestant, Evangelical and Anglican churches, the World Jewish Congress and the American Jewish Committee, numerous Muslim associations from Morocco to the Iman of Al-Azhar, the International Union of Muslim Scholars in Doha and the Organization of the Islamic Conference, all expressed their solidarity and support and strongly condemned these despicable acts and all kinds of terrorism,” she said.
For her part, Venson-Moitoi said democracy is about protection of human rights, including the right to life. She said Botswana preaches and practices multi religious tolerance which is enshrined in its constitution, the kind of tolerance which when observed ensures that all human life is valued and cherished.
“Anyone who challenges this is against true democracy and they are unfortunately not living on the side of the truth. The God that we respect as Botswana through our different denominations stands for truth and love, and love does not hate or kill,” said Moitoi.
She condemned the attacks against France as acts against religion, adding that those who are able to clean out such evil should be given support.
“Botswana is doing all that it can to support France through this ugly time.”
Representative of the Botswana Muslim Association, Sheik Aabzari expressed his sincere apologies and sympathy towards the French, saying Muslims do not support violence in any way shape or form.
“If you kill one person you have effectively harmed the whole of humanity. Islam is against killing. The attack should never be said to have been carried out in the name of Islam. We truly regret that people are suffering worldwide as a result of these malicious attacks,” said Aabzari.
He further explained that the Muslim society attended the memorial service to show solidarity with the French as they mourn the loss of their loved ones. “May love prevail and wipe out war, may people around the world learn to live in peace, love and solidarity and seek solace in Allah,” he concluded.