When disaster strikes, the world unites

The simple act of one person can change society
April 11, 2019
Campaign crunch time
May 3, 2019

The world watched on in horror when a massive inferno ripped through the historic Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris this month, destroying much of the roof and its main spire.

It took 500 firefighters around 8 hours to extinguish the blaze and as the smoke cleared, the world united with Parisians to mourn the potential loss of 850 years of history.

From travellers sharing their Notre-Dame selfies to political and religious leaders of all faiths expressing their sadness and astonishment at this sudden catastrophe, the world – for once – was united.

The Cathedral of Notre-Dame transcends religious or cultural beliefs because it is more than just a building. Like the Pyramids of Egypt or the Acropolis in Athens, this iconic building represents the power of human endeavour, perseverance, skill and devotion. For the people of Paris, it exemplifies what it means to be Parisian.

As the people lined the streets of Paris to sing as the Cathedral burned and the viewers who were glued to their screens watched live footage of the tragedy; the barriers of language, culture, religion and distance disappeared.

So how long did this sense of unity last? Predictably, the answer was not long at all.

While people were quick to signal their shock at the devastating fire, the same speed has been seen in the reaction of people in relation to what should happen to the UNESCO World Heritage site in the aftermath of the fire.

Debate now reigns as to whether or not the iconic building should be faithfully restored or rebuilt with a modern lens? Some are also questioning whether the billions raised for the restoration could be better spent on humanitarian or environmental issues.

Notre-Dame is seen as a building belonging to the people of Paris and the visitors of the world. The custodians of this iconic landmark now have the very difficult task of deciding on, and communicating, its future in a way that is inclusive of its world-scale community.