On November 13 in Paris, more than 125 people were killed in at least five separate coordinated attacks by terrorists. As news of the attacks broke, the attention of the world was focused on the City of Light and the unfolding tragedy of yet another terrorist assault. News outlets were flooded with reports, photos, and commentary as regular programing was suspended so that the networks could provide ongoing coverage of the developing situation in France. World leaders, like Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, American President Barack Obama, and British Prime Minister David Cameron, issued statements of condolence and support for the people of France.
In early July, 145 people, including children and women, were shot to death in mosques by Boko Haram militants in Nigeria. Later the same month, 100-180 people were killed by a car bomb in Khan Bani Saad in Iraq. In mid-August 96+ people (presumably civilians) were killed by air strikes carried out by the Syrian air force in Douma. In September, Boko Haram killed another 145 people in Nigeria, this time with bombs. On October 10, 102 people were killed and 508 injured by suicide bombers in Ankara, Turkey; the victims were participating in a peace rally. On October 31, 224 people died on Metrojet Flight 9268 over the Sinai, Egypt, likely as a result of a bomb.
I do not watch a lot of TV, but I do not recall all regular programming being interrupted for hours following any of these tragic acts of terrorism. Nor do I recall world leaders holding special news conferences to express their regrets or condolences and offering assistance to the people and leadership of the countries or communities affected.
The morning after the Paris attacks, the top five news items in “Today’s Headlines,” an e-mail I receive daily from The New York Times, were related to the Paris attacks. All of the major news stories on the website of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation concerned Paris. Eight out of ten items posted to my Facebook page are related to the incident in Paris; most are expressions of grief, outrage, or sympathy.
I cannot remember seeing the same level of concern for the other victims of terror mentioned above.
I wonder why Paris is different.
Of course, we grieve for the victims of the terrorist attacks in Paris and for their loved ones, as indeed we should; the events that occurred there yesterday are truly tragic. But where is the intense global mourning and outrage for the victims of Boko Haram in Nigeria? For those who died in the central station in Ankara? For the victims of Flight 9268? Is our grief for them less because they are geographically farther away from us than Paris? Or is there another reason? Is our grief for them less because our deepest empathy is reserved for those who share our culture, our religious beliefs, or our skin colour?
We are all—French, Nigerian, Turkish, Russian, Iraqi—brothers and sisters. All who suffer as a result of tragedy deserve our empathy equally.
“NIGERIA-UNREST,” by Diariocritico de Venezuela. Creative Commons Flickr. Some rights reserved.
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