As world leaders arrived in Paris for COP21, Sheila and I went to the Place de République to walk prayerfully around the monument, which was a great gathering place for Parisians after the terrorist attack in this city in January 2015 and again this November. The Bataclan music venue where one of the coordinated attacks happened last month is very close to the Place de République.
There were thousands of memorials placed around the circumference of the monument, which personifies the French republic and the values of the republic (the Rights of Man; Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity; and Faith, Hope, and Love).
The mood in Paris is somber; there are many fewer people on the streets in the evening than we have experienced in the past. We have talked with several Parisians who speak to the complicated present reality – the values of a culture they love, and also the negative heritage of colonialism.
The proud lion with the tag, “COP21” on the monument of the Place de République speaks to the complexity of this moment for not only Paris and France, but for the Earth. The burgeoning refugee crisis, not only from the Middle East and North Africa, but from Central and South America; the many eruptions of terrorist attacks in the world – these are not removed from climate change but are bound up with the negative effects of climate change and the human causes for it.
I cannot help but think, however that whoever chose the lion to bear the COP21 graffiti made a deliberate choice. In the midst of this suffering there is a place for courage – “acting from the heart.”