A week after the attacks on the Barcelona promenade of La Rambla and in the Catalan resort town of Cambrils, an intercultural gathering of 900 dignitaries and residents paid tribute to the victims.
The memorial took place in the Maritime Museum, a stone’s throw from La Rambla, the famous street along which Younes Abouyaaqoub drove, ramming his van into the crowds, killing 13 and injuring over 100 people from around 35 countries.
We are here with our heads held high to say we are not scared Actress Carme Sansa
The slogan for the occasion was “No tinc por”– “I’m not afraid”. Barcelona’s Arabic Orchestra began proceedings with a unique version of the traditional Catalan piece The Song of the Birds. Actress Carme Sansa then read out the first names of each of the victims. “We are here with our heads held high to say we are not scared,” she told attendees, emphasizing that Barcelona is “an open, diverse and welcoming city, a city we are proud of. More than ever we have to fight for that diversity, because that is where our strength lies.”
Sansa went on to recall the words of Mahatma Gandhi: “There is no path to peace. Peace is the path” and stressed the respectful and inclusive nature of the event. “This is what Barcelona is and it reflects the profile of the victims who were from various countries and religions,” she said. “Wherever they were from, they were neighbors.”
Representatives of 300 groups were at the museum to pay their respects, some atheist, some secular, and others from a broad spectrum of faiths.
Religious leaders on hand included Barcelona’s Archbishop Juan José Omella, who hold the large mass in Antonio Gaudí’s Sagrada Familia church on Sunday attended by King Felipe and Queen Letizia.
Passages about peace from the Bible, the Koran, a Buddhist text and the Torah were read out
Meanwhile, Catalan Regional Premier Carles Puigdemont, Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau, Spanish Minister of Justice Rafael Catalá, the central government delegate for Catalonia, Enric Millo, and the speaker of the Catalan regional parliament, Carme Forcadell, stood at the front of the gathering with Catalan politicians from all parties, listening together as young members of the community took turns to read passages from the Bible, the Koran, a Buddhist text and the Torah: words from different creeds but with the same message of peace.
In another corner of the hall, representatives of the emergency services paid their respects along with members of the general public.
Towards the end of the proceedings, 30 boys and girls, from diverse religious backgrounds, were called by name and stepped up to the podium with a single flower, later to be taken to La Rambla. The memorial was concluded with a poem by Federico García Lorca dedicated to La Rambla itself: “the only street on earth that I wish would never end.”
“I need to hug a Muslim”
Javier Martínez, the father of three-year-old Xavi who was killed in the attacks along with his great uncle, joined a 700-strong crowd yesterday in the Barcelona district of Rubí to demonstrate defiance and unity. “I need to hug a Muslim,” said Martínez, who found solace in an emotional gesture from the local imam Dris Salym. The imam put his arms around him and cried.
English version by Heather Galloway.