Shrine of the Republic

December 19th, 2015: Pedestal of the Monument à la République decorated with memorials to the victims of the November Paris attacks.

Arriving at Place de la République, I can see congregants standing solemnly. Some are taking pictures; No selfie-sticks here. Like the devout at the Vatican, Mecca, the Western Wall, it’s about the place, not the “been-there.”

At the foot of the monument, “prayers” framed by candles and flowers. Defiance: “Neither gods, nor war.” “I won’t let the terrorists stop me from living.” “Not even scared.”

Further along, raw anguish in a poem by a believer exalting the beauties of a peaceful Islam. An attempt at reconciling a common religion with the acts of terror.

Another section is decorated in a rainbow of peace signs.

The statue is a shrine without religion. Its symbols, the olive branch, the human rights declaration, the ballot box, invisible to many of the pilgrims. No magical thinking here. Overpowering any false claims to martyrdom, it’s a memorial to the martyrs for peace.

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