Week in Review: Hope and Tragedy

The rise of terror and death in our newsfeeds and conversations has brought the weight of the world crashing down on our shoulders.  But instead of hatred, in most cases tragedy has brought out the best in people.

Paris Attacks

The evening of November 13th saw the most severe attack in France since World War II.  Six coordinated attacks killed at least 129 people and injured 352 more (Read the stories of the victims here). Targets of suicide bombings, hostage-taking and mass shootings included the Stade de France, the Bataclan Theatre and several popular restaurants. Terrorist organization, ISIS, has claimed responsibility for the attacks. President François Hollande called a state of emergency, closed the borders, and declared the attacks “an act of war.”

UPDATE:  Of the eight reported attackers, seven are dead.  Six by detonating their vests, a seventh was shot by police, and the eighth is still at large, possibly in Belgium.  The purported ringleader of the attacks was killed in Wednesday’s police raid in Saint-Denis.

 Rather than descend into despair, however, Paris has united (as has the rest of the world) in honoring the fallen with acts of kindness and solidarity. Vous ne tuerez pas notre liberté. [You will not kill our freedom.]

"Les fleurs et les bougies, c'est pour nour protéger"

A Muslim man offered hugs at a vigil for the victims, saying “I trust you, do you trust me?”

Beirut, Lebanon Suicide Bombings

Unfortunately less reported, yet equally devastating to the families of those lost, were the Beirut bombings on November 12th.  Forty-three were killed with 239 more wounded when two ISIS recruits detonated explosives at an open-air market. (Read more here and here)

Many people are frustrated and frankly offended that the Beirut bombings, just one day before the attacks that shocked Paris and the Western world, received less sympathy or support shown to France. Joey Ayoub, an online blogger, stated “It also seems clear to me that to the world, my people’s deaths in Beirut do not matter as much as my other people’s deaths in Paris. We do not get a “safe” button on Facebook. We do not get late night statements from the most powerful men and women alive and millions of online users.” 

Baghdad, Iraq Car Bombings

Baghdad has been a frequent ISIS target.  On Friday the 13th a roadside bombing, targeting Iraqi Shiite Muslims on their way to a memorial service for a Shiite militia fighter, killed 26 and wounded many more.  Also, an explosion at a Shiite shrine the same day murdered at least five more. ISIS has claimed responsibility for both attacks. 

UPDATE:  Three more suicide and roadside bombings in Baghdad on November 20th, killed fifteen more Iraqis. 

Shiite leaders have called for unity to combat ISIS as the “greatest challenge and danger to the Iraqi people of all religions, sects and ethnic groups.” 

Nigeria Bombings

Several attacks within a 24-hour span (November 17-18th) have left 49 people dead and almost 200 wounded. The Nigerian towns of Yola and Kano were targeted by multiple explosions, both hitting local markets. No one has taken responsibility for the attacks, but most suspect Boko Haram, a terror group in allegiance with ISIS, trying to form an Islamic state in Nigeria.  Read more here

Syrian Refugee Debate

President Obama has pledged to take in 10,000 Syrian refugees in the next year, but faces resistance from state governors and Congress. Over half of US governors have refused to take refugees, which the President has condemned as “un-American”.  Congress voted on Thursday to make the refugee acceptance process substantially more difficult than the already 18-month to two year processing window. 

Many fear that among the refugees will be those who sympathize with ISIS or are using refugee status to start an insurgency into the United States. 

“Sowing fear of refugees is exactly the kind of response groups like ISIS are seeking,” said Iain Levine, deputy executive director at Human Rights Watch. “Yes, governments need to bring order to refugee processing and weed out militant extremists, but now more than ever they also need to stand with people uprooted from their homes by ideologies of hatred and help them find real protection.” Read more here

Defending the defenseless and protecting freedom have long been founding values of the American identity. If we turn away Syrian refugees out of fear, doesn’t that mean the terrorists have won?  If we succumb to xenophobia, can we still claim the title: The land of the free and the home of the brave? 

In Conclusion

It is impossible to make sense of these terrible tragedies, and the world seems to be reeling with pain and grief and hatred. But this suffering should serve to remind us that we are one world.  One people.  We cannot allow ourselves to succumb to hatred and discrimination, to let fear divide us, to fall apart instead of coming together.  What hurts one nation among us, one people among us, one individual among us, hurts all of us. So pray for peace, pray for the world, pray for love over hatred.  Where love wins, terror cannot.  Vous ne tuerez pas notre liberté. 

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