No fear

By Mathias Maurer, March 2016

It is still dark outside. The stove is roaring nicely, it is cosily warm, the table is laid and we are eating breakfast.

The daily paper is lying on the chair. “Are those soldiers?” Lena (8) asks and points to the front page photo. Before I can answer, she continues: “Will there be war?”

“What makes you say that?” I ask in surprise. “That’s what everyone in class is saying.” You can’t even leave the paper lying around anymore, I think, knowing at the same time that this is not the solution either. John’s (5) interest has also been awakened: “Do they have guns or swords?”

How can I speak with children about terror, I ask myself? A certain insecurity is already spreading: when I sit in a train or plane I look at my fellow passengers differently today. In some countries states of emergency have become the norm. Even the most innocent person cannot avoid noticing when football games are stopped or cancelled. The latest surveys show: 28 percent are worried about terrorist attacks (in 2014 it was 17 percent).

“Who says these things in class?” I ask. “Have you discussed it?” – “No, but Julian and Michael saw it on TV. And his brother Maurice always listens to the news on the radio in the morning. Dad, why do they do that?” Lena persists. “Hang on, I’ll be with you in a minute,” I say. I have a few seconds to think while I put more wood on the fire.

The subject of refugees also got the children thinking. You cannot overlook them at the station and a few streets on in the containers, and the adults talk about it. “Where are they all going to go, we don’t have any more space in our house?” Lena has already asked me in the past. She saw it in concrete terms so my answer also had be concrete: “We’ll just have to move up a bit closer. If everyone took one of them there would still be loads of space.”

Now I sit down back at the table and say: “You know, when people no longer know what’s what or are in need, they can either become very sad or very mad, really angry and harm other people. And what can we do? All we can do is think about it, remain calm and help the people no longer to be sad, mad or angry.”

That is what I tell my children. But inside a feeling of vulnerability, helplessness and impotence towards terrorism remains. But Antoine Leiris’ message from Paris on facebook breaks the paralysis: “On Friday night you stole away the life of an exceptional being, the love of my life, the mother of my son, but I will not give you the gift of hating you.”

We look back, we look forward, we want to build the future, as with this issue on the subject of “School & Work”.


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