We Are Europe!

A Petition from Change.org

Terrorism has struck at the heart of Europe: the day before yesterday, it was Madrid and London; yesterday Paris, today Brussels; tomorrow it could be Prague, Rome, or Berlin. All cities where European culture saw its heydays. All cities where our thinking and our ideals were nourished, where our arts, sciences, and literature flourished. All cities that now serve as theatres of terror.

We live in a new world, many say. According to the terrorists, that world revolves around a war unto death between the warriors of the Caliphate and the crusaders of the West. They view their actions as valiant attacks on our freedoms and democratic values. But these are not assaults against our values; they are horrific crimes against people in a nightclub, restaurant, airport or metro. The terrorists are murderers not heroes. They are neither soldiers of God nor fighters for justice. They are criminals who maim children and destroy lives.

Let us not accept the imaginary world of the terrorists as though it is real. Let this not be a world that we go through as victims. Let it be a world where we awaken as Europeans once again. A world where we embrace all the best and brightest things that Europe has gifted to us; a world where we embody the ideals we inherited from our ancestors.

We are Europe! In the face of crime, we will stand for justice; in the face of terror, we will fight for our freedoms. We can never follow the example of countries that imprison people without a fair trial, that violate rights as though they are luxuries, that restrict freedoms in the name of freedom. We cannot find inspiration in governments that spy on their own citizens and sow suspicion everywhere. Our future lies in our own legacy: in the democratic rule of law that protects each of us against the arbitrary use of power and the tyranny of the majority.

We stand for the search for truth and the nobility of the mind. We will not enslave our thinking to fear or hatred. But neither will we deny facts or evade questions. We should be able to examine all questions in all freedom. We will go wherever that search may lead us, no matter how unexpected or unpleasant the answers may sometimes be.

We are Europe! In the face of cruelty, we will stand for humanity. As Europeans we have learned from the experiences of the world wars and colonialisms, from the terrible mistakes that our ancestors made back then. We will never again persecute a religious group as though they are Europe’s enemy. That is what ISIS wants and how the terrorists see the world. But we can never walk that path again; we know the horror it leads to all too well …

We will tirelessly keep striving for the unity of Europe and the brotherhood of humanity. Let this not be a bureaucratic project but the dream of a culture. A dream with a long past: less than a century ago, we could still travel from country to country without a passport. The shock of the Great War changed all that. Suddenly, every foreigner was treated with suspicion and subjected to humiliations that had been reserved for criminals up until then.

True, we cannot simply return to a world of open borders. But it is much more foolish to return to a world of closed nation-states. After 1945, our greatest statesmen and -women started working towards the unity of Europe. The same nations that dreamt of destroying each other only decades ago make up a Union today. True, a Union with its shortcomings, problems, and petty sides – but a Union nonetheless. Bombs and Kalashnikovs cannot have us betray the duty to realize that great dream of unity.

We are Europe! Not because of the passports we carry or the language we speak; not because of the religion we practise or the ideology we believe in; not because of the colour of our skin or the accidents of our birth. We are Europe because of the beauty of her culture and what she has given us. The future of the new world shall depend on our own ability – the ability to always embody the best and brightest gifts that our culture has to offer. In this world, we can once again live for the ideals and dreams that so many of our ancestors lived and died for. Wherever we are, European culture will flourish. We are Europe!

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