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Responds to the horrific terrorist attack on the staff of the French satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)


To respond to the horrific terrorist attack on the staff of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.

Preparation and materials

This rapid response assembly is designed to suggest a variety of ways of dealing with the subject to adapt to your students’ concerns and age group.


1. Introduce the story by mentioning it without going into the upsetting details.

2. Focus on the fact that the terrorists take the name of a religion but they do not represent the faith of Islam any more than, in the past, terrorists from Northern Ireland who called themselves Protestant or Catholic represented Christianity, or the first terrorists of the twentieth century who called themselves anarchists represented atheists. The people who commit these acts in the name of Islam are pursuing their own ends, not representing Muslims in general.

For younger children you might use the following simple analogy:

Suppose that someone from your class was often late for school. Would it be right to say that the whole class was late or that having classes at all made people late? It would be a silly thing to say, just as wrong as bad people claiming to speak for a whole religion or group of people.

3. Point out that Muslim groups and leaders in France and across the world were quick to condemn the attack as un-Islamist.

4. For older students you could point out that one of the things our society tries to uphold is freedom of speech and it is the same in France. We don’t have to agree with the things that people say but we can agree that they should be free to say them. The French satirical magazine was attacked because the staff believed in that right and the terrorists do not. Freedom of speech is precious; it is one of the ways that we can all get along even if we strongly disagree with each other. It allows us to learn from each other and have our ideas challenged, even if we find this difficult at times.

5. You could finish with a reminder that, horrible as these news stories are, they are not common. We hear about them and are shocked because they are so rare, so unusual. For most people in the world, life goes on as it always has so we should care for the survivors and think of the victims but not allow the horror to overwhelm us (which is what the terrorists want and why they are called terror-ists).

Time for reflection

You could end with a time of silence to remember the victims of this and other attacks and/or a prayer if appropriate to your school ethos.

A prayer

Sometimes words are not enough
Sometimes what has happened seems too much to comprehend
Help us to care, not be overwhelmed and to work together for a more peaceful world.


‘Fragile’ by Sting or something by Enya to give a calm atmosphere for the reflection.

Publication date: January 2015   (Vol.17 No.1)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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