Sunday, November 15, 2015

Who Do I Make the Effort to Notice? What Paris Should Teach Us

At least 1000 civilians were killed, 1,300 women and girls raped, and 1,600 women and girls abducted between April and September.

A pregnant wife is murdered in her home during a home invasion.

A 62-year-old woman is murdered in her home by her boyfriend.

147 college students are murdered by terrorists.

41 people are murdered by terrorists.

129 people are murdered by terrorists.

Why are some more identifiable than others?  Why do you immediately know what person or place I am referring to with some, and not the others?

Is it because of media bias?
The area of the world where it took place?
Because some places are just dangerous and so we expect bad things to happen, but others are more newsworthy because they are considered "safe?"

Is it because we can all identify Paris on a map, but not Lebanon, South Sudan, or Kenya?  Is it because we can imagine ourselves hiding from terrorists in a concert hall, but not in a South Sudanese swamp?  Is it because we see ourselves as the murdered pastor's wife, but not the black girlfriend in Lancaster, California?

Probably.  And that's not necessarily bad.  We mourn more deeply when the tragedy happens closer to us.  We become more frightened when we can picture it also happening to us.  The attack on Garissa, Kenya affected me more than the attack on Paris, France, because Kenya is right next door to me. The attack on Westgate Mall in Nairobi terrified me more than the attack on Beirut, Lebanon because I have been to that mall myself.  So it wouldn't be fair for me to be angry with you for caring more about Paris than Garissa just because it touches you more closely.  

But....  In spite of all the (probably) unfair accusations of racism or prejudice that are being thrown around, times like these are great for soul-searching.  Let us not lose the opportunity to grow.

Do we allow only the media to tell us what to pray for?  Do we take the time to look for the people and places who might not be getting the same attention?  I have been convicted to look harder for the ignored stories. Jesus sought out the prostitute, the tax collector, the child.  Even a sparrow does not fall to the ground without his notice. Who do I make the effort to notice?

Support and prayers pour in for wife of Indiana pastor whose pregnant wife was murdered.  No problem with that.  Pray for this family.  But let that grief remind you that many others are murdered, even in America, with no one noticing.  Has anyone looked up the family of the man in Lancaster who just yesterday shot his girlfriend and then himself?  Think they could use some support and prayers?  

Pray for Paris.  But let Paris remind you to pray for Kenya, and Lebanon, and Syria, and South Sudan.  The grief and the terror we feel when we watch the reports of Paris should give us a lot more empathy with the millions of people who live with the threat of terrorism every day.

Perhaps this article says it best:  "Westerners are finally being given just a small taste of the constant fear that people from other nations have endured for generations.  So solidarity with, and compassion for, the French is a good thing."

And in the meantime, let us not despair, for we serve the God who sees all, and loved us enough to not just watch from a distance.

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