I’ll admit: when I heard about the terrorist attacks in Paris, my first instinct was fear. Shut down, close ranks, put up (imaginary) walls around me and my loved ones, and do everything in my power to protect them. As if by doing all those things in my head, I would be able to.
Of course that was the whole point of the attacks. Mass murder, yes, but even more effective than that, it aimed to strike fear into the hearts of people all around the world. This is psychological warfare, designed to cause panic, incite distrust and paranoia, and turn people against one another.
As the news sank in, I realised that what we need to do isn’t just #prayforParis, but also for Lebanon, Syria and all the other countries that experience terrorism on a regular, oft unreported basis. Rather than close in on ourselves, we need to be more open and generous than ever, especially towards those with whom we are unfamiliar. Instead of hate, we need to show love, and not just to those who share the same cultural values, religion or skin colour. It sounds cliched, but it really is the best way forward. Love is our only hope if we’re going to stand together against evil – and win.
I have been encouraged by the strength of the Parisians and the solidarity that the world has shown in standing with them. I have also been encouraged by articles reminding us that Paris is hardly the only victim of terrorism, and it’s time we open our eyes to the magnitude of what’s been going on. I do think the world in general has a double standard when it comes to white people dying and non-white people dying, and I agree that the media has been incredibly biased in this respect, but it’s great that we’re talking about it, because that’s how awareness starts and (hopefully) ignorance ends.
If you’re praying for Paris, will you also pray for Beirut, who is still reeling from a series of coordinated suicide bombings? If you’re flying the French flag on your Facebook profile picture, will you also extend that same generosity of thought and compassion to Syrian refugees who are fleeing the very atrocities we are so vocal in condemning? Will you remember the millions of innocents, not just in the Middle East but in countries in Africa and Asia as well, who live our greatest fears every single day?
We cannot stop what has already happened, but we can choose how we react in the aftermath. Whether or not the ripples of hate continue to spread is not up to those terrorists, it is up to us. To allow fear to dictate our prejudices and bigotry is to let the terrorists win, and if there’s one thing we all agree on, it’s that we cannot let that happen.