If you are safe today, you have a responsibility.
You have a responsibility to pay attention. It is by mere chance you were born into the position you are in and are not in a conflict zone right now.
You have a responsibility to be grateful and use what you have been given – your education, your position, your privilege, your resources, and your voice – to advocate for those facing terror and violence.
You have a responsibility to not let hate win. Do not let this week’s events perpetuate fear, stereotypes, or Islamophobia in your heart or in your society.
You have a responsibility to weep with those who weep and care for those fleeing terror and extremism. Politically, it’s complicated. But at the end of the day, we belong to one another. When one member of humanity is stripped of freedom, dignity, and opportunity, we welcome them into our countries and homes. Full stop.
To the full extent of my knowledge right now, ISIS/ISIL is responsible for the death of at least 128 people in Paris; 43 deaths and over 200 wounded in Beirut, Lebanon; and 26 deaths and over 60 wounded in Baghdad, Iraq.
The vast majority of public support and media coverage has been focused on Paris, which in part I understand. However it follows a concerning pattern I often witness in the media and on social media. When a tragedy occurs in a Western, developed, white, and/or Christian community, the attention and sympathies are heightened. Much less so when poor, people of color, and/or non-Christians are targeted.
We have a responsibility to love our neighbors and see them as whole people - worthy of the same dignities and freedoms we demand for ourselves – regardless if they look, believe, or act like we do. Your Lebanese, Iraqi, Syrian, or Somali neighbor is just as much your neighbor as your French one.
This would come more naturally if we actually formed relationships with people of different backgrounds than us. For example, one of my best friends is from Jos, Nigeria. When Boko Haram bombed Jos in 2014 and 2015, it broke my heart in a more acute way. I had a personal tie to the people in this place which made the situation all the more real and horrific.
It’s a hard time to feel hope. We need to sit with this for a while; then move forward and do the bit that we can to ensure all people – in all places – have the opportunity to live freely, safely, and fully.
I don’t know where to start. But acknowledging our privilege and using it to assist those who face violence and darkness is necessary. Following the news and raising awareness about conflicts that happen across the world is helpful. As I wrote in my last blog on a hate crime targeting a Muslim in Minnesota, I think pursuing interfaith, cross-national/racial/cultural relationships is a place to begin. Reaching out to the refugees in our communities is a place to begin. Feeling responsible for all of humanity is a place to begin.
Organizations to support: