A Lesson from Paris

paris

Image credit: Peace for Paris by Jean Jullien

It’s unsettling how commonplace terrorism and violence is. When a man in the parking lot at Boyfriend’s apartment complex asked me last night, “did you hear about what’s happening in Paris?” and then filled me in, I felt the familiar pang in my stomach that said we could be next. It is the same feeling I get each time I step into a movie theater, or go through airport security, or walk through a crowded mall. That’s what terrorism does: It creates panic. It inspires fear. It forces us to question our safety.

But one of the most damaging effects of terrorism is its ability to divide us.

In this time of tragedy, let us remember to unite with one another as we mourn the lives lost in Paris on Friday night. Let us remember that the people of our world are more than the actions of one extreme group– just as the KKK and Westboro Baptist Church do not represent Christianity, so ISIS does not represent Islam. It is easy to generalize those we do not understand, especially when such violent acts make us fear for our own families and homes. It is easy to say “they are them and we are us” instead of remembering that we are all part of “us.”

Remember the diversity you see in your own communities, and extend that same hand of friendship and acceptance to those whose faith, skin color, political affiliation, or other identity does not match your own. Remember that there is no person or group that can be boiled down to a single set of stereotypes, and that the generalizations we cling to are the very things keeping us locked away in fear and preventing fellowship among other communities. Remember that buying into those cheap stereotypes keeps us exactly where acts of terrorism want us– divided and scared. When acts of terrorism and hatred beg you to judge and place blame, instead show peace and seek understanding. Prejudice is easy, but that does not make it right– as a world community, we are in dire need of greater compassion for one another. Especially in times of tragedy and crisis.

As we stand with the people of Paris through the aftermath of these horrible acts, so too we must remember to stand with the members of our own communities, both alike and different from us. Most importantly, we must remember to stand with our Islamic brothers and sisters, who must fight the consequences of fear and ignorance in the face of terrorism and war. We must remember that our most important job as humans is to love one another. We must remember that change is possible, but it must be done hand in hand, together. We must remember that terrorism and hatred know no nationality, race, religion, or creed.

We must remember that so long as we are divided, terrorism and hatred win.

As I pray for Paris, I pray for a world in which my children will not know this kind of violence.

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