Our hearts are rattled by the terrorist attacks in Paris. I cannot imagine the grief parents are experiencing at the realization they will not hug their children again. The carnage of the concert hall prompts my eyes to turn away when the muted images are shown on the news. People walking merrily through the streets of Paris found their lives turned upside down in a moment last Friday night. The city will never be the same again. France needs our prayers. Our hearts should in fact weep for Paris.
There is tremendous beauty that is emerging as a result of this tragedy. People are responding with love and care. A renewed and global solidarity with the people of France is on display captured by the phrase, “We are all Parisians.” A shocking tragedy such as this reminds us that we are all humans who need to come together at such times.
One reason the terrorist attacks cut our hearts is that we can see ourselves in those scenes. It could be us enjoying a meal at a street side café. It could be us watching a soccer match. It could be us dancing at a concert. It is a typical modern city that we can see ourselves visiting on any given day. It creates anxiety in our hearts because it is too close to home. I wonder if this is in part one of the reasons for our concern.
I ask this probing question because there was not the same reaction to a similar terrorist attack on April 2 that claimed the lives of 147 people at Garissa University College in Kenya. In fact, I don’t remember hearing much news coverage on it. Yet, they are equally tragic. However, I wonder why one arouses an outpouring of grief while the other one does not. To be honest, I question why my own heart is not moved as much by terrorism in Africa. Is it possible that my response is somewhat related to my identification with the city rather than concern over the violence itself?
Reading the Chicago Tribune on Sunday, my mind was drawn to reports on the tragic murder of a 9 year old boy by the name of Tyshawn Lee. He was killed November 2 at 4:15 pm in Chicago. Tyshawn was the victim of gang violence in the city I call my home. As of November 16, there have been 415 shooting deaths in Chicago. This does not include the suburbs or surrounding neighborhoods. I don’t think twice about traveling downtown. I enjoy seeing the sights. It is great city. Yet, why don’t I become grieved when I think about my own city. Is it because the neighborhoods where the violence occurs do not resemble my suburban one?
Granted, there is something to be said for the fact that our emotions are peaked because we can picture ourselves in those scenes. Yet, I have to honestly ask myself whether it is strictly about the violence. Because if that was the case, should I not be as equally outraged and grieved at violence everywhere whether it is in the Third World or the Inner City? Most definitely, Paris needs our prayers. Yet, so does Kenya and Chicago. For while we might not see ourselves in those locations; nonetheless, it is home for someone who is equally victimized by acts of terror. So the events of Paris have challenged me as a believer – to grieve for the violence in France but also to grow more conscious regarding the taking of human life wherever I see it. God grieves in each of these places; so should we. So should I.