Why Do We Care More about Paris than Beirut and Nigeria?

It was November 13 and I had just gotten off the phone with my mom to wish her a happy birthday. We talked about our trip to Paris next year and how much we were looking forward to it. My mother is a hard working payroll specialist and hasn’t gotten to travel a whole lot in her lifetime. Paris has been on Mom’s “bucket list” for as long as she could remember, and she finally decided she was going to go. Naturally, my sister and I decided to tag along.😉

The Eiffel Tower, Paris

[Photo: public domain.]

An hour later, I received a call from a friend who told me to turn on the news. I don’t have cable, so while I fumbled to pull up CNN.com on my Smart Phone, she told me what happened in Paris. Suicide bombers. Several locations. At least a hundred people dead.

(Eerily, this echoed how I found out about the September 11th attacks. I was getting ready to leave my apartment for class at SDSU when a friend called me and said, “You need to turn on the news…NOW.”)

I was stunned by what my friend was saying, and what I was reading, about Paris.

I wondered, How could this happen? How could people be filled with so much hatred? These poor victims and their families. I hope they catch the terrorist group behind this and take them down!

My heart was so grieved that people went about their day — attending a concert or enjoying a meal with loved ones — and had no idea their lives would end or change forever.

I scrolled through my social media feed, and no one had posted anything yet. It had only been a couple of hours, but no one was talking about this tragedy yet. So I posted “PRAY FOR PARIS” on my Facebook page. I prayed throughout the day and in the days to come for this beautiful city and its people.

The next day, floods of people had changed their Facebook profile pictures to be overlaid with France’s flag. 

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[Photo: Facebook.com – Mark Zuckerberg.]

Encouraged by the outpouring of love and solidarity, I almost changed my profile photo too, until I heard about what happened in Beirut (it’s in Lebanon…don’t feel bad if you didn’t know; I didn’t either) about three days late.

Two suicide bombers killed 43 people the day before the Paris attack. Interestingly, Beirut used to be called “the Paris of the Middle East” after its independence and before its civil war.

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[Beirut: From above it looks like any other beautiful vacation destination. Photo by Akaash Maharaj on Flickr.com]

Someone told me these attacks are par for the course in the Middle East. That they happen so often that they just don’t make the news any more. And we’ve just accepted this??

One journalist argued that it’s okay if if we care more about the Paris attacks than the Beirut bombings.

I’m sorry. No.

Today I found out about two girls, ages 11 and 18, who blew themselves up in two different marketplaces in Nigeria during peak trading hours. It was most likely coordinated by the terrorist group Boko Haram. This happened two days ago.

Screen Shot 2015-11-19 at 2.30.27 PM

A friend told me a “Pray for Nigeria” hashtag was circulating. Haven’t seen it.

Let me be real transparent with you for a minute. In light of all these terrible events in recent days, I’m tempted to care more about the Paris tragedy than these other tragedies…and I have to ask myself, Why? Is it because France is so similar to the U.S. it its freedom and way of life, and I can therefore relate to its people better? Do I love Paris because of what Paris offers me (i.e. vacation destination, beautiful sights, sounds, foods, experiences, luxury)?

Shouldn’t I love Beirut and Nigeria and Syria just the same, even though I have no plans to visit? Even though these countries seemingly have nothing to offer me?

Yes, as many have pointed out, we love France because she is one of our oldest allies. We should love France! But isn’t greater love caring for someone who can do nothing for you in return? As Coach John Wooden once said, “You can’t live a perfect day unless you do something for someone else who will never be able to repay you.” Or better yet, as Jesus said:

When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid.  But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” Luke 14:12-14

Of course I love and care about ALL people. All tragedy is tragedy. And I think it’s okay to point out a discrepancy in news and social media coverage from one incident versus another. Each involve the senseless killings of our fellow man. Each involves actual mothers, fathers, siblings, and friends who are hurt or grieving.

All people matter, no matter what their country has to offer us. 

Here are some great ideas on how you can make a difference in light of these tragedies around the world:

Donate to the French Red Cross.

Support agencies that help the Syrian refugees like Samaritan’s Purse and Save the Children.

Help women and girls rescued in Nigeria through several different organizations.

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