Germany after the market attack: ‘free, together, and open’

Ordinary people in Germany and elsewhere are rejecting the temptation of hate and fear.

Hannibal Hanschke/Reuteres
Berliners and refugees gather together in front of the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church in Berlin Dec. 21 after a truck plowed through a crowd at the Christmas market Dec. 19.

Messages of solidarity from political leaders around the globe have flooded Germany in the two days since a probable act of terror killed at least 12 people and injured scores of others at an outdoor Christmas market in Berlin. “In the fight against all those who ... threaten our societies, we stand at the side of Berlin,” said a White House National Security Council spokesman in a statement.

The search for the driver of a large truck filled with steel beams that slammed into a crowd of holiday shoppers now includes a €100,000 ($104,000) reward for information on his whereabouts. The Islamic State group has claimed it is behind the tragic attack although at this writing its involvement has not been confirmed.

Beyond the official condolences have come touching responses from ordinary people. In Berlin, hundreds gathered to say the Lord’s Prayer together. One Tunisian student in the German capital, the same nationality as a suspect wanted by German police, wrote “There is no path to peace – peace itself is the path” on a scrap of paper that he added it to a growing memorial of flowers and candles. “I came back here today to show that everyone needs to fight for peace together, both Muslims and Christians,” he told Britain’s Telegraph newspaper.  

Another message left at the site affirmed that “light is strong[er] than darkness,” and added “Berlin lives on.”

At a similar Christmas market in Britain, a country that in the late 20th century endured its own terrorist bombings by factions of the Irish Republican Army, marketgoers interviewed by the BBC sounded resolute.

“If you stop your life, these people have won,” said a young mother shopping at a Christmas market in Manchester, England, who had brought her two young children with her.

Should the Berlin attack be confirmed as an act of international terrorism, its aim surely was to demonize the 1 million Muslim refugees being sheltered in Germany with the hope of creating suspicion of all Muslims. It also poses a stiff political challenge for German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has backed the huge humanitarian effort and who will run for reelection in the fall of 2017.

In speaking to the German people after the attack Ms. Merkel resolved to hold firm to the democratic values of tolerance and inclusion that modern Germany has demonstrated to the world. “We do not want to live paralyzed by the fear of evil,” she said. “Even if it is difficult in these hours, we will find the strength for the life we want to live in Germany – free, together, and open.”

Her words speak to all around the world who hold to the truth that love and brotherhood must triumph over hatred and division.

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