On January 7 I turned on the morning news to the headlines accompanied by video and photos of the terrorist attack at the Charlie Hebdo office in Paris. I was immediately drawn to the story and wanted to hear updates throughout the day.
I had studied in France during my sophomore year of college. I had strolled the streets of Paris with great delight and wonder. I could only imagine the fear that now walked those rues with two terrorists on the loose.
Then on the morning of January 9 the news breaks that terrorist have a hostage in a warehouse and another hostage situation is happening in a Jewish market in Paris. The news stations report all day on the events as they unfold and report for days after about the terrorists, the memorials for the victims, and the march for freedom of speech where world leaders walked arm in arm.
Four days after the Paris attack, I am scrolling Facebook to pass the time and I notice an article a friend shared about a village obliterated in Nigeria by Boko Haram. I click on the link to read the subheading reporting up to 2,000 villagers were massacred.
When did this happen?
How did I not know about this?
I had been watching the morning news and the evening news daily to get updates about the event in France and I never heard a report about the Nigerian Massacre.
Why wasn’t the deaths of 2,000 innocent victims covered in the nightly network news to the extent the murder of seventeen Frenchmen were? Are not the lives of the Nigerians as valuable as the French? Are these killings not as newsworthy because they happened in Africa, a continent riddled with tragedy for decades? Does the terrorist attack in Paris receive greater media coverage because it is a democratic European nation?
Whatever the reasons for the imbalanced coverage of these two tragic events they can’t stop me from caring. How do journalists decide what events to cover when wars, disease, and terrorist attacks abound? I don’t have the answers. But I do know I have a responsibility to know about the pain and suffering of people around the world. I know many may disagree with that statement, but I find it to be true. I have been given the responsibility to be aware of the sufferings and injustices heaped upon people.
I am asked to follow the teachings and actions of Jesus. When I study the life of Jesus I learn He saw all human atrocities from his home in heaven. He felt great compassion for all our hurts and sufferings. This compassion, along with the love for the father, compelled him to leave heaven and come to earth to live among us. Jesus saw everything, yet He did not turn away. He did not say I can’t watch anymore and turn his face. No, He said I can’t watch anymore, so I will go into all the mess and hurt and face them. I will give life and healing to all the death and brokenness.
And now, after his death on the cross, Jesus stands with God, His father, interceding for you and me. This it what Jesus did and this is what I am to follow. Jesus did not stop being aware of the evil in this world. He fought and overcame the evil.
I know I am limited in my ability to fight the evil, but I know I am to be like Jesus and have compassion on the hurting and to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with my Lord.
So what ought I do?
I am not suggesting watching endless hours of news television, but I do believe we need to know 2,000 people were massacred in Nigeria the same week 17 were killed in Paris, just like we need to know Russia is still at war with Ukraine and Isis still kills innocent children and has forced millions of people to leave their homes for refugee camps.
What do we do with this knowledge?
We allow what breaks Jesus’ heart to break ours. We can’t just sing the song and allow the words to come forth hollow.
We need to pray as we are instructed in 1 Thessalonians 5:17, without ceasing. And we can pray a simple prayer just as Jesus instructed, Your Kingdom come and your will be done on Earth, in Nigeria, in France, in Ukraine, in the Middle East as it is in heaven.
Yes, the knowing of the atrocities people encounter daily can be overwhelming, depressing, and uncomfortable, but Jesus did not say this life would be comfortable. He did say to not lose heart for I have overcome this world. We, the people who know and walk with Jesus can face these hardships with tears in our eyes and hope in our hearts because we know that even when it seems evil is prevailing God still reigns and has already won the epic battle of good versus evil.
We must know. We can’t turn away. We need to see and be filled with compassion to join Jesus as he intercedes for his people. When we see the hurting people and we pray on their behalf we have joined the battle that Jesus has called us to.