What is the difference between attacks on Charlie Hebdo and those on Garissa University?
On January the 7th of this year, two Muslim gunmen attacked the Charlie Hebdo office in Paris, France, killing 12 innocent people.
One million people and dozens of world leaders (many of them African) converged on Paris several days later for a Unity march. Three months later, the world continues to mourn, discuss and remember this tragedy.
My response to those events, “Je Ne Suis Pas Charlie,” argued that the response to these attacks (and the publication itself) was potentially hypocritical—had the cartoons been rampantly anti-Semitic, would they have ever been allowed to go so far. Had the attackers been non-Muslim, would we still be talking about these events months later?
Now I will add another question: Had the victims been of another nationality, another race, another religion, would we have cared so much?
We have an answer in the form of Garissa University in Kenya.
On April 2, 2015, Al-Shabab attackers stormed a university in Garissa, in the northeastern part of Kenya close to the Somali border, and massacred 147 innocent students.
There has been no unity march. No world leaders have converged on Nairobi to demonstrate support. The world and international media have, largely, already forgotten about these events—if they even knew about them to begin with.
Just 300 people read my response to these events.
Look carefully at these two scenarios.
This is what hypocrisy looks like.
I understand perfectly well what an oversaturation of international news feels like. If I were not currently based in Kenya, chances are I would not have been paying such close attention to this story either.
I understand that we are predisposed to protect our own, to care about our own. What happens to our neighbor will affect us more than what happens to someone halfway across the globe—whether or not that discrepancy is just.
What I do not understand, however, is why 12 French lives matter more to the world than 147 African ones. Both cases of terror attacks. Both cases of innocent victims slaughtered.
I do not understand how, in this age of global connectivity, we still do not conceive of someone halfway across the world as our neighbor. Worse—we don’t even try.
These are global issues, whether they happen in Paris, France, or Garissa, Kenya. We have a responsibility and an obligation to care and respond with equal outrage, with equal sadness, and with equal empathy.
If we were all Charlie, how could we not be Garissa, too?
Author: Toby Israel
Editor: Katarina Tavčar
Photo: Wikipedia Commons
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