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We need fire in our hearts to protect our freedoms

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A French man residing in Nicaragua holds up a card that reads, 'I am Charlie', to pay tribute to the victims of the shootings in France at the offices of the satirical weekly newspaper Charlie Hebdo and a Jewish deli, in Managua. Reuters

A French man residing in Nicaragua holds up a card that reads, 'I am Charlie', to pay tribute to the victims of the shootings in France at the offices of the satirical weekly newspaper Charlie Hebdo and a Jewish deli, in Managua. Reuters

REUTERS

A French man residing in Nicaragua holds up a card that reads, 'I am Charlie', to pay tribute to the victims of the shootings in France at the offices of the satirical weekly newspaper Charlie Hebdo and a Jewish deli, in Managua. Reuters

freedom is a precious thing. It is hard won. It must be cherished. It must never be taken for granted.

Throughout the world, it is a sad fact that the majority of people do not enjoy the kind of freedom, flawed though it is, that we have. They live their lives, every day, under the yoke of institutional or "revolutionary" terrorism, or they are enslaved, or starving or in extreme poverty. Terrorism comes in many forms.

But terrorism is always about hatred. Hatred of difference - of a different religion, or of none; hatred of a different skin colour; or just a different way of life.

At the heart of all hatred is fear. But it is dressed up as offence. Artificial principles are created and turned into absolutes and these have bestowed upon them a divine imprimatur. No one must deviate from these principles without causing offence. And causing offence becomes a capital crime.

We know on our own small island the capacity of people to go out of their way to take offence.

We know the record of those who assert their absolutes and then set out to impose them on all others. And we know that murderous criminality and terrorism are not confined to the Middle East or Africa or the streets of Paris or London or America.

We have had our victims - the 'Disappeared'; the abused; the policemen North and South who had their lives taken in the line of duty; and our own journalists, Veronica Guerin and Martin O'Hagan.

You don't need a different skin colour to find yourself in the cross hairs of this equal opportunity killer. You merely need to appear to defy their absolutes or fail to subscribe to them without question.

Worst of all, you must not make them the subject of humour. Some people don't have a sense of humour. Some people even think it's funny to joke about sending gunmen into a newspaper office to enforce an approved editorial line.

Hatred is the energy that fires the fanatic in every land. Hatred of those who by opposing terrorism are painted as oppressors.

And when hatred drives these causes, there are no innocents, no one is uninvolved. Everyone is fair game. Everything must be destroyed - freedom, democracy, tolerance are called the work of the devil.

Soldiers and aid workers trying to keep the peace in troubled lands, or help displaced, terrified people, are "invaders." The politicians who send them are their malign masters. And all the innocent citizens in whatever country - men, women and children - are fair game and acceptable collateral damage.

You don't have to actually do anything to become a target. You don't have to take up arms. As we saw last week in a Paris magazine, it could be something as simple as taking up a pen to draw a picture, to make a point about freedom.

In the name of these murdered journalists, these murdered police, every one of us must recommit ourselves to these ideals, and resolve to cherish them, at home and abroad.

We, too, need fire in our hearts to never allow ourselves to take our freedoms for granted.

Sunday Independent