Calvin students react to the Paris Attacks

It does not seem long ago that the world was shocked by the tragic events of Charlie Hebdo last January. Less than one year after “Je suis Charlie” was written on the streets and hearts of France, unsettling violence has erupted once again. Deemed by Pope Francis as a “piecemeal Third World War” with no “human or religious justification,” the events of Friday night have grave implications for all persons worldwide.

According to The Washington Post, around 9:30 p.m. on Friday evening, a suicide bomber released an explosion into the Stade de France during a soccer game, killing one passerby. Just moments later, two gunmen opened fire on a cafe and restaurant, resulting in the death of 15 civilians. Five more people were injured during another shooting at a small Italian eatery. Yet another shooting erupted at a common Parisian restaurant in the city’s 11th arrondissement that injured nine people and resulted in the deaths of 19.

The most detrimental attack occurred in the renowned French concert hall, the Bataclan. Here, gunmen invaded the auditorium and killed 89 spectators and injured over 200. The terrorized victims were held hostage for the next two hours until police forces stormed the hall and the attackers blew themselves up. These horrific events have caused the death of 129 innocent individuals and threatened civilian security globally.

In these difficult moments, we must — and I’m thinking of the many victims, their families and the injured — show compassion and solidarity,” President Francois Hollande told The Washington Post. “But we must also show unity and calm. Faced with terror, France must be strong, it must be great and the state authorities must be firm. We will be.”

There are currently 30 Calvin students studying abroad in the southeastern city of Grenoble. Don De Graaf, director of off-campus programs, confirmed the day after the attacks that they were all safe. They were on vacation that weekend, and some of the students who needed to pass through Paris to return to Grenoble reported that they had no difficulties.

The response of the students in Grenoble varied greatly. Luci Ohlman, a junior at Calvin, recounts her experience the night of the attacks:

“I remember the night it happened. I laid in my bed with the lights off and kept repeating ‘Lord, have mercy,’ because I didn’t know what else to say or think.”

According to the students, security has heightened throughout the city as security guards check backpacks and purses in concentrated areas. Rebecca Kim, a student who was also in France during the Charlie Hebdo attacks, expressed that the events brought back “unsettling feelings” and was saddened by the tragic reality of terrorism. She also reported that the city of Grenoble hosted a moment of solidarity on Monday to mourn the deaths of the victims.

The city of Grenoble is affected as a community, but also very intimately. The host family of Calvin student Rachel Dieleman personally knows a victim of the shootings who left behind a pregnant wife and a two-year-old daughter. Dieleman goes on to express hope in the midst of the tragedy stating that a “sense of unity can be felt” throughout the country despite the tangible burden of “grievance and sorrow.”

Several students voiced their grappling with the normalcy following the attacks. “Everyone is waiting for what will happen next. I think waiting is about all we can do,” said Jeff Peterson, a student also currently studying in France. Each student reported that they do not feel any threat of danger.

Calvin student Nathan Leduc, who lived in Marseille for seven years, expressed his concern for the implications of the events on the racial tensions in France:

“It breaks my heart to think that there is a possibility that [Muslims] will be increasingly discriminated against because of something they themselves condemn.”

Christine Hekman, who is currently in France shared this concern. She said passionately, “We need solidarity with everyone around the globe who is facing this issue. Not just the victims in France and not just the victims who look like us.”

“I believe our God is powerful and capable,” Ohlman wrote. “The Calvin group has been calling on him for peace and guidance.”