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France caught in the grip of violence. Dominique Quinio: “This challenge can be won only through social cohesion”

Attacked on various fronts, France was caught in the grip of violence. From the clashes between Euro 2016 fans, to a resurgence of the terrorist nightmare following the attack in Magnanville, coupled by acts of violence and urban warfare in Paris during a labour demonstration. Interview with Dominique Quinio, for 10 years director of La Croix, now President of the French Social Weeks: "France is going through a difficult time that requires not division but social cohesion."

Attacked on various fronts, France was caught in the grips of violence. Euro 2016 enjoyment was marred by a series of clashes between fans that caused devastation, injured, and arrests. While the police and security forces were engaged in containing violent supporters, the nightmare of terrorism resurged. In Magnanville, a young ISIS affiliate, Larossi Abballa, stabbed to death two policemen, and live-streamed the video of their death on Facebook. The havoc of violence was not over. At the end of a labour union rally in Paris on Tuesday June 14, approximately one hundred “casseur”, affiliates of anarchic or extreme left groups, committed acts of urban warfare throughout the city. They went so far as to wreak havoc on a paediatric hospital where was hospitalized the three-year-old toddler who had survived the slaughter of his parents, two police officers, in Magnanville, two days before. “All tolerable limits have been overstepped,” said the Bishop of Le Havre, Monsignor Jean-Luc Brunin, president of the Episcopal Council “Society and Family.” “One cannot but condemn such violence in the strongest terms. It’s a way of behaving which, far from helping make progress, deconstructs society. ” Dominique Quinio served as editor-in-chief of the French Catholic daily La Croix for ten years (2005-2015). This year she was elected president of the French Social Weeks.

What is happening in France?
I think we should be careful not to link up  all forms of violence, although some of them unfortunately recur, such as those perpetrated by football fans. There is also the phenomenon of terrorism, which, conversely, is an unprecedented question that takes on increasingly cruel and different forms, and for this is hard to control. The third form of violence is that of the so-called “casseur”, youngsters from the banlieues who let out their frustration through violence. Most of them are members of anarchic or extreme left political groups who express their rage against political powers.

Why now?
Unquestionably the situation is further emphasised in view of the pre-election period we will be experiencing next year. France is going through a difficult period that requires not division but social cohesion.

Compared to the German or Anglo-Saxon world, our society finds it harder to understand and to put into practice a culture of negotiation, thus making a step towards the other person even when that person is not as we had imagined.

How do French people view social cohesion?
Strangely enough, all sociological surveys conducted in France show that when people are asked theoretical and general questions regarding, for example, their attitude towards migration, the answers convey closure, communitarianism and rejection. But when they are asked more specific questions, such as the right to access healthcare in situations of need, they give positive answers.

What does this mean? 
That we should focus on these qualities of our citizens. We should not act as political leaders do on many occasions, namely to ride the wave of popular fear.

Unemployment, the lack of future prospects for young people, the difficult coexistence between different religions and cultures, are all important issues that must not be downplayed. But instead of trying to reach out to people’s sense of solidarity, anguish and fear are fomented.

In your opinion which past mistakes have stirred up such dramatic levels of violence?  

In point of fact, France’s history and its recent past show that similar episodes of violence have always occurred.  

Of course, Daesh terrorism is a new phenomenon, but France has gone through periods marked by terrorism with Algeria. Now everything is worsened by the economic and social crisis, unemployment, increasing numbers of youths who find it hard to envisage a positive future. Such situations can lead to pervasive feelings of frustration. Unfortunately successive French governments failed to address these issues successfully.

What did they do wrong?
I will answer this question by proposing a perspective whereby the political realm must recover a horizon of action and thought that will unable it to develop a convincing project.

The problem is that political leaders are no longer credible, and also institutions have lost credibility. We are witnessing a comeback of individualism where each one thinks for himself. Self-accomplishment is important, but we tend to forget that self-accomplishment can be achieved only because we are part of a community, thus only by being at the service of others and for others at the service of the common good.

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