To the attention of all AIJA members:
In and out of Europe, we are all shocked about what happened in Brussels on Tuesday morning, the brutal and barbaric terror attacks against civilians.
Sadly, this week was not the first time during my term as AIJA president that I have had to write email messages expressing our deepest sympathy to our members in a country directly affected by pointless terror against civilians and sending our sincere condolences to the families and friends of the victims who lost their lives or were wounded.
After the October Ankara explosions AIJA decided to move forward with the Istanbul Half Year Conference, which proved to be the right decision and our conference was a great success. None of us who were in the room will ever forget the touching first-hand testimonials that the Syrian judges from the Free Independent Judicial Council shared with us.
The Paris attacks, just a few days before our Istanbul conference, unfortunately and very sadly proved what some of us were afraid of: these brutal terrorist attacks can happen anywhere in the world. At the November executive committee meeting I shared with you my fear that these attacks would be remembered as the beginning of a sad new era: a time when we cannot take it for granted anymore that we will be safe in the heart of Europe. Unfortunately, in addition to Paris, this fear was reinforced by the attacks in Istanbul and now in Brussels.
As humans, we can relate more easily to places and people that we know personally. The majority of our members are still from Europe. Lots of our members and our staff live in Brussels or close to Brussels. We have all been to Brussels in the past. We are planning to go back to Brussels for AIJA’s 2018 Annual Congress. Consequently, it is no wonder that we feel particularly touched and we would like to thank you all for the kind messages you sent to our Brussels staff and members.
In the face of this fear we can have two reactions:
Either we change our lives and life-styles, not leave our homes and families if possible, work online or at a distance, stop going to cultural and sports events, give up travelling internationally, focus more on ourselves as individuals, and stop attending (or in AIJA's case organizing) international gatherings as a reaction to the fear.
Or we can continue to move and act freely, live meaningful and rich lives, interact with and help others, and continue with international networking like we do at AIJA events.
The terrorists clearly want us to react in the first way.
Personally, I don't want to give in to the fear and would prefer to react in the second way. I encourage you all to do the same.
Having said that, we must also keep in mind that in the past six months there have been lots of other terrorist attacks in other parts of Europe and the world — many that have gone unnoticed or have barely been reported on - and that there are also countries where anti-terror legislation is misused to curtail human rights and democratic principles. We have to stand together, condemn all forms of violence and fight against poverty, inequality and ignorance all around the globe to ensure that all people can live in safe and healthy conditions, regardless of geography or religion.
I read a post on Facebook the other day: "The best education you will ever get is travelling. Nothing teaches you more than exploring the world and accumulating experiences." I would also add to 'travelling' "meeting and talking to people from other cultures". The current instability of the global climate makes it our duty to maintain and foster international avenues of communication and facilitate person-to-person diplomacy, a concept I truly believe in. Building communities and friendships across the globe does matter. AIJA matters and we can make a difference. "If only people will get together, then so eventually will nations." (D. Eisenhower)
If we stand together, and if we continue our mission of bringing young lawyers together from all around the world, the terrorists' attacks and campaign of hate and fear, with which they attempt to undermine democratic values and the rule of law, will not succeed.
I look forward to seeing you at our future events.
Budapest, March 24, 2016
Orsolya Görgényi, President of AIJA