René Cassin is shocked by the murders that took place last week. We have a particular connection to these dreadful events. As a Jewish organisation, we are horrified at the targeting of a kosher supermarket. And Monsieur René Cassin, the French Jew after whom we are named, is buried at the Panthéon in Paris – just across the Seine from the brutal attack on the offices of Charlie Hebdo.
Cassin was one of the co-authors of the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights. His consciousness was forged by the terrible events of the twentieth century: seriously wounded in the First World War, he became a man of peace; having seen his sister and 25 members of his family deported and murdered by the Nazis, he became what President Mitterrand described as a ‘soldier of human rights’.
We bear Cassin’s name and we strive to respond to the events in Paris in his spirit. We condemn violence. We condemn murder as the most fundamental violation of human rights. We support freedom of expression as essential to the lifeblood of a plural democracy.
We are reminded that René Cassin passionately preached the universality of human rights – that they applied to everyone regardless of religion or race. In that vein, we equally condemn those who would use these atrocities to justify violence against, or political oppression of, vulnerable minorities.
In conclusion, we hope and believe – as our namesake did – that the human virtues of tolerance and respect will triumph over hatred and suspicion.