The two-man double terrorist attack on Charlie Hebdo has left millions disturbed, including two ACU professors who have family residing in Paris.
The French magazine features satirical cartoons, jokes and reports targeted toward political leaders and political matters. Last week, the magazine published a cartoon that depicted Muhammad, a Muslim prophet.
Depicting Muhammad in any way is strictly prohibited by the hadith, a collection of Islamic teachings that are completely separate from the Quran but widely accepted in the religion.
In response, Muslim terrorists shot and killed 12 people who worked for the magazine, including Stephane Charbonnier, the caricaturist who authored the disruptive cartoon.
At the same time, another man attacked a Jewish grocery shop in which four were killed.
Since then, people nationwide have protested, marched and created their own cartoons in response to the catastrophe.
What seemed to come as a shock to some didn’t surprise Yann Opsitch, instructor of French.
“I think this is something that was expected,” he said. “That’s something that maybe people don’t realize because the magazine is satiric.”
Opsitch, a French native, moved to the States in 2000 when he was invited to teach at the university.
“I was invited to ACU to work with missions for a year and stayed,” he said. “I worked here with my wife in missions and started teaching French four years ago.”
Opsitch has a little more than a familial connection to France.
“I did not know (the editors of Charlie Hebdo) very well, but I had some kind of connection to them in the ’60s because I was in the May ’68 French Revolution,” he said. “I was a student in Paris in 1968 so I’m connected to them in an indirect way. The atmosphere of 1968 is kind of what you find in Charlie Hebdo.”
As Opsitch delved into the history of religion, he pointed out the importance of the religious aspect of the issue.
“As a Christian, it’s interesting; it’s a complex issue,” he said. “As Christians, we cannot make fun of people, we cannot mock people because of their faith. We know that. But when you’re living in a country that has freedom of expression, as a Christian you can choose not to do that.”
Opsitch said the French take on a different perspective of the issue.
“It’s just a fun, satiric magazine,” he said. “It’s not about left or right, it’s everybody. It’s kind of ridiculing everybody and it’s sort of trying to take everything more humoristically. It’s a special approach.”
Opsitch’s whole family lives in France, but is not directly affected by the issue, unlike Beatriz Walker’s.
Walker, an associate professor of Spanish language and literature, has a brother, two sisters-in-law and nieces who live in France.
“I am originally from Montevideo, Uruguay,” Walker said. “Both of my brothers left and moved to Paris and became political refugees. My oldest brother’s wife and his second daughter live in France and my middle brother, Miguel, who has passed away, and his wife, Michelle, and daughter have lived there 30 plus years.”
Walker’s nieces participated in the march that took place in Paris Sunday.
Walker said because she has family in Europe, she wanted to support the cause by purchasing a T-shirt.
“They’ve been wonderful to my family,” she said. “I have a little heart for Uruguay, a little heart for the United States and a little heart for Paris; my heart is divided in three parts.”
Walker also had a place in her heart for what Paris stands for – freedom of speech.
“I love politics and freedom of speech,” she said. “France is like the voice of freedom. They thought that couldn’t happen in Paris because Paris is such an emblematic place for freedom of speech, but it’s happening everywhere.”
Opsitch said the event was inevitable, and Walker confirms.
“You cannot control people,” Walker said. “It’s very hard to control every individual.”