About a week after I explained in this space why I’m heading to Tunis, Tunisia, to serve as co-president of the Global Forum on Modern Direct Democracy, the center of Tunis was the site of a terrorist attack that killed many innocent people around the national museum.

Some readers asked if I was still going.

Of course, I am. And I wish you could too.

The problem is: it may be too late for many of you to join us, even if you could get a flight. After the terrorist attack, we saw a surge in interest and registrations for the forum. Our biggest problem now is accommodating all the interest.

This shouldn’t be surprising. Terrorism and violence are a part of life in democracies around the world, including here in the United States. Violence can’t deter us from practicing democracy. Indeed, the expansion and extension of democracy is deeply connected to peril; terrorists in Tunisia and elsewhere are quite explicitly trying to stop democracy and open society as it gains.

Our event, of course, will have high levels of security. But it remains free and open to the public (provided you have registered and we can find the space for you). If you’d like to go, please get in touch. We also will have live streaming of the event, which will provide you the entertainment of watching me try to say a few words in French and Arabic, languages I do not speak. (The language of the forum is English but we will have translations).

And as a final note, I’d like to share the letter put out by our local Tunisian host committee, led by the president of the University of Carthage (a great and ancient university) and the head of the country’s trade unions, after the terrorist attack.

Dear citizens from around the world,

On March 18, the Arab World’s first democracy was attacked by terrorists. By killing more than 20 people at the Bardo museum, the enemies of people power chose the very symbol of our old and proud civilization.

In this difficult time, the best answer to this terrorism is to stand up united. As a show of unity, we ask and invite you to come to the Global Forum on Modern Direct Democracy.

The March 18 attack was not the first challenge to the peaceful democratic Tunisian revolution of 2011. Our democratic transition has been full of challenges as we have made a definitive break from a that had undermined all aspirations of people power.

Today, we are well into this transition. Since the revolution, we have been able to establish institutions to support the political, social and economic dynamics of Tunisia. The most critical was — without any doubt — the Higher Authority for Realisation of the Objectives of the Revolution, Political Reform and Democratic Transition. This Commission opened the door and paved the way for the first free and fair elections in our country in late 2011.

As a next step, a Constitutional Assembly was elected, and it drafted a new, modern and democratic constitution. This process was supported by both a transitional government and a strong civil society, which is committed to the progress of people power and the social cohesion of the country.

The people of Tunisia further honoured this revolutionary path to democracy by electing – for the second time – a legislature in October 2014. In December 2014, the people elected a new head of state.

As a key player in this process, the General Trade Union of Tunisia (UGTT) has been instrumental in making democratic ideas more common among citizens and supporting the further modernization of the country.

Now is time to bring the ideas and practices of direct and participatory democracy to the local and regional level, where the first elections will be held in the near future. To decentralize Tunisia by active participation of its citizens will be an important step towards a better balance and equality between different parts of the country.

In this spirit, the University of Carthage and the UGTT are together hosting the 2015 Global Forum on Modern Direct Democracy in Tunis on May 14-17. It is a unique opportunity to make you all part of our common effort towards active citizenship and participatory democracy on all political levels – and to show all kinds of anti-democratic forces that we will not let them scare us!

The Global Forum will take place on the Campus of the National Institute of Agronomy in Tunis (INAT). The forum is an expression of the people power dynamism established by the declaration of the 2nd Republic, the formation of a new coalition government, and the set-up of public institutions to safeguard our achievements in the medium- and long-term.

The 2015 Global Forum offers a historic opportunity to discuss, assess and consider the next steps in implementing the constitutional requirements to decentralize the country by participatory means. The role of young people, women and the protection of our cultural heritage and environment will also be important subjects at the Forum.

After all, it was young people who started the Arab Spring with the Revolution in December 2010 – with the goal of building a better future for everybody.

Looking forward to see you all in Tunis at the Forum!

Yours sincerely,

Hassine Abassi, Secretary General, UGTT
Lassaad El Asmi, President of the University of Carthage