I've been crossing paths with terrorists a lot lately. But I'm not freaking out about my safety. I am worried, though, about how—and whether—we in the West are taking in the news. Let me explain.
A few weeks ago, I walked into JFK Airport in New York at the crack of dawn and caught wind of the CNN ticker showing a massive attack at the airport in Istanbul. People at the airport weren't paying attention. They didn't seem the least concerned. I understand why.
Compare that to our reaction to the news out of Nice, France, last week, and two other attacks in Paris in as many years. Too many lives lost in all of these stories, and all the others like them. I guess the bombings in Istanbul—a huge, cosmopolitan, busy port city—was just too distant to be seen as a viable threat to the well-being of most of the people flying out of New York that day.
It's important, though, as parents—American parents, parents in this tightly connected global world—that we try to wrap our minds around it.
When I saw news of the Istanbul attacks, though, it felt like a close call. I had just come back from working in Ethiopia and Dubai. I was in New York visiting friends on my way back home to California, to my two young sons, my parents, a family who loves and cares about me. My trip to Ethiopia had gotten very complicated in the last few days of the work I had been doing for a non-profit organization, so rather than stopping over in Turkey again (which was my initial plan), I flew through Dubai. My initial flight would have had me passing through Ataturk airport the same day of the attacks. Once again, I'd managed to be so close to—yet, mercifully, so far away from—another underreported terrorist attack.
The scope of the global crisis of terrorism is bigger than most of us understand, than most of us know. It's important, though, as parents—American parents, parents in this tightly connected global world—that we try to wrap our minds around it.
Some months ago, I was in Turkey, when there had been two other terrorist attacks. I was there, because Turkey had become the unofficial home base for the leaders of a project I'm involved in, one supporting moms and babies fleeing Syria to Europe and Turkey.
I'd flown back and forth between Istanbul and Greece three times during that trip. Just one week after my colleagues and I left Istanbul, there had been another attack in that city along a very tourist-y street called Taksim Square. Dozens were killed and injured in the attacks. (That's me in Taksim in the picture, a couple of weeks before those latest attacks.)
I'm not saying it is your fault that you were not made aware of the global scope of this situation, but I will say that in order to make a difference, we need to start paying attention to terror as a whole—not just went it hits close to home.
Hearing about the number who were injured and killed, I felt relief not to be there, of course. But I was also surprised. With the heightened security, I really thought there would be a lull in attacks on the West after Paris, but it seems they are getting more and more frequent. By the time I learned about the the carnage in Brussels a few months ago, through my Facebook friends' statements of grief, I was devastated, of course. By that time, though, I wasn't all that surprised.
In September, I took this photo outside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem (also known as The Church of the Resurrection).
It was denouncing pseudo-Islamic terrorist organizations (in this case, ISIS/ISIL), and it pictured a few of the many innocent lives they have taken. I posted this photo on Easter Sunday and commented on how interesting it is that lately everywhere, including one of the most well-known holy places in the world, there is acknowledgement of this group and similar groups and their ability to terrorize all of us.
And since this was taken there have been more than 100 attacks … (Since just Easter)
Since just Easter, there have been more than 100 attacks around the world that can be attributed to pseudo-Islamic terrorist organizations (e.g. the Taliban, the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL), Al Qaeda, etc.) But I wonder: How many of these attacks have you heard about? Probably just a handful.
I'm not saying it is your fault that you were not made aware of the global scope of this situation, but I will say that in order to make a difference, we need to start paying attention to terror as a whole—not just went it hits close to home. I'll get back to that—attacks close to home or in areas where we have or would like to someday visit, like Nice, Paris, Brussels. First, though, I want to focus on so-called radicalized Islamic terrorisism.
For the West, especially we Americans who are relatively removed from the physical terror, news of the attacks creates a mental terror, so we reject all that is related to Arab and Islamic people, whether they are in our neighborhoods or regions of the world.
On Easter Sunday this year, at least 69 people were killed and 341 injured in a terrorist attack at a theme park in Pakistan. The target of this attack were Christians, who make up only 2 percent of the population in Pakistan. Of course, the theme park that day had a mixture of Muslim and Christian guests who fell victim to the attack. A majority of the casualties and injuries were women and children. This was at a theme park, after all.
It is important to note that these terrorist organizations work under the guise of an Islamic organization, and it has been stated that Christians are under specific persecution, which I am not disputing. But the truth is that these organizations are neither Islamic nor theologically radicalized—they are political (militantly, unethically and unapologetically so), which is why there is not one specific faith-based group which is protected from their terror.
You might be wondering why it even matters, the terror they cause does not change based on religion or politics. However, in order to learn how to prevent these groups from growing, we need to understand the basis for the organizations. To protect the people who are at risk, specifically the refugee population, we need to understand the motivations behind the attacks.
The attacks you are hearing about, including Nice, have a specific purpose: They want you to be afraid of the groups who are fleeing from specific physical danger, and they want scare you into global inaction and apathy. In 2015, an article from ISIS surfaced stating their goal, of all ironies, is to destroy Muslim acceptance in the West. Here's the thing: It's working. After the Brussels attacks, #StopIslam was trending on Twitter. My own family begged me to come home from Greece after the Paris attacks, because they were concerned for my safety.
Our reaction to these attacks in playing right into their hands.
For the West, especially we Americans who are relatively removed from the physical terror, news of the attacks creates a mental terror, so we reject all that is related to Arab and Islamic people, whether they are in our neighborhoods or regions of the world. We teach our children to do the same.
Do not give them this satisfaction.
Remember you have a better chance of being fatally crushed by furniture than being killed in a terrorist plot (domestic or otherwise). Watching video from Nice, reading about the death toll at Atatruk International Airport, reading texts from Parisians makes it hard to accept this kind of reasoning. (Though my mom got a severe concussion from a desk falling on her head a month ago, so it sounds pretty accurate to me.)
Humanity does not need to be bound by its fears. Instead, we can:
1. Acknowledge pain that has been inflicted upon others
2. Acknowledge the attempt terrorize all who remain
3. Denounce the chasm which those inflicting terror are attempting to create between all of us
1. Our fears (and those who are creating those fears) lose their grip on us.
2. We aren't afraid to live, explore or experience community.
Love. It's time to make America kind again.