Everybody is talking about the terrorist attack that happened a few days ago in Charlie Hebdo. Whether it is to condemn violence, to condemn Muslims, to defend the non-radical Muslims, to defend freedom of speech, and/or to comment the magazine’s work. Many theories have been developed: that Muslims want to end the Western world, that the radicals were offended by the satirical portraits of Prophet Muhammad, that the radical terrorists were seeking, through the attack, to generate Islamophobia to gain more followers, etc etc etc.

Many things have been said, but I don’t intend to comment on them here. What I want is to think in the future, in the future that we want. This event has made everybody uncomfortable because, among other things, it demonstrate how defenseless we are; any extremist person or group of people can one day activate a bomb and kill a significant group of people, like it happened in Yemen a few days ago, or in Norway in 2011. What can we do about it?Can we do something?

I consider myself an optimist person, so my answer is, “Yes, we have to be able to do something”. To be able to start thinking about what we can do, we must first understand which are the reasons why these terrorist attacks occur. This does not imply, in any way, that we are the actions of these individuals. However, in order to be able to decide what to do, we must try to understand the phenomenon.

So, let’s think, why do terrorist attacks happen? Intolerance, the belief that a group of people wants the extermination of another, the brainwashing of poor and uneducated populations performed by a group of violent leaders, violent responses to terrorist attacks as the recent attacks to mosques, etc. How can we avoid or improve these situations? The police, the secret police and the military are necessary to try to prevent violent acts in planning and, when they have already happened, to control the situation and find the culprits. They are needed, but I personally believe that preventing terrorists acts using violence, like starting wars, only generate more violence.

Therefore, I modify slightly the question: how can we, peacefully, avoid or improve these situations? In Stanford University, the Peace Innovation Lab develops intervention design frameworks and innovation processes to increase positive, prosocial engagement across group boundaries. In addition, platforms as Uber are considered as “peaceful” since they allow society to get closer; they allow two people from different environments to meet. And, by knowing each other, they generate empathy, which is key to avoid violence.

“That is very nice”, you might be saying, “but, how can this prevent terrorist attacks?” I believe many of these acts have as fuel, though not as an unique cause, misinformation and ignorance. If the most read articles in a newspaper were not the sensationalist ones, but those who invite us to meet different people, then intolerance would diminish. If everybody knew many stories of peaceful Muslims, of Muslims helping society, as Malala, then Islamophobia and intolerance would not be generated after every terrorist act; then people would not respond by destroying mosques. The same applies to Muslim countries, where I am sure there are many people who can demystify the beliefs on the Western world. And this also applies any ethnic or religious group. Websites as Humans of New York (HONY) help us to respect different people, because they tell life stories with which we can relate.


To read the picture’s caption, visit this link in HONY’s website.

Education is another fundamental aspect. We need leader who use education as a tool to create respect between different people. A person that doesn’t know a group in society cannot feel empathy for them. A child that grows listening how terrible a sector of society is, internalizes these ideas and makes them his own. This was demonstrated in the nazi Germany. So, what can we do to educate the poorest sectors of the population, whose only information is what is being said in the streets and what the mass media is saying?

Nothing that I’ve said will end with terrorist attacks, but I believe they contribute to make a better world, to decrease the number of violent episodes. Therefore, I invite the readers of this post to ask yourself the following questions: why is there violence? What can be done about it? What is the world I want to live in? I gave you my opinion, I await yours.