Did anyone watch the Boston bombing news with great interest? Were you glued to updates and bulletins, carefully checking the suspects’ faces and watching their every move on the security camera footage released by the FBI—regardless of whether you lived near Boston? I sure did, and I live hundreds of kilometers away. I watched it all with serious concern for the people there. I prayed for and watched the stories about those who stepped in to help during the crisis—and then closely followed the suspects’ chase and eventual capture.
And then I heard about the recent violence in Venezuela linked to the presidential elections and the explosion that ripped through a coffee shop in Baghdad killing at least 30 (at last count). There, the bomb was hidden in a similar manner as the Boston bomb—dropped into a bag and detonated wherever it would do the most damage. And I’m embarrassed to admit that when I read those two stories I shrugged and thought—that’s unfortunate.
Funny how people become more “real” or more “important” to me the closer to home they get. I imagine walking the streets in Baghdad would be a huge culture shock for me—so many different sights and sounds and people wearing different types of clothing and speaking in an unfamiliar language. The Iraqi landscape and climate is probably about as opposite as you can get from the landscape and climate in Northern Ontario. It has snowed there only once in the last hundred years while right now I’m looking out my window at more flurries in April. Not only that but their culture is radically different than mine—and has undergone much more upheaval in the last several decades than I could ever comprehend. Boston, I’m a little more familiar with. I’ve been there, walked the Commons and seen the sights. It’s definitely closer, not only geographically but also psychologically, to me than Baghdad. But does that make the loss of life in Baghdad any less tragic, and any less worthy of my prayer and attention, than the loss of life in Boston?
It shouldn’t. But that attitude creeps in.
The fact is, we’re not that different from the Iraqi people. Baghdad has a national ballet, orchestra, theatre, several universities, institutes of music and fine arts, churches, mosques, monuments, museums, and a zoo. They wouldn’t have these things if the people there weren’t dedicated to truth, beauty, and goodness. While their subtle daily customs might differ radically from ours in Canada, there are many gestures I’m sure we’d all understand. A kiss. A hug. A handshake. A smile. Baghdad has been classified as one of the most dangerous cities “on the earth,” but I imagine that the majority of people who live there long for peace—the day they can worship or live or have a cup of coffee and not be afraid of where the next bomb will go off and whether they will live to see their children grow up.
More importantly, the people there, just like the people in Syria, Venezuela, Yemen, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, and many other war-torn places, are people—with bodies, hearts, brains and souls—made in the image and likeness of God, just like you and I. And as such they deserve our love and attention just as much as our next door neighbour—Because they are our neighbours in Christ. Actually…they’re much closer than a neighbour; they’re brothers and sisters in Christ.
Sure there are individuals in any country at any given time that suffer from a “god-complex” or violent political ideologies, but we’ve got people with similar problems who were born and raised right next door to us. It’s ridiculously unchristian for us to write off a whole country or race simply because of a few crazies. We’d have to write the whole human race off, if that was the case.
While I’m not suggesting that you hop a plane for any of these dangerous parts of the world, I am asking you to care. About the people there. About the troubles of their countries. Just as you care about the people in Boston and Texas and pray for them and their families. You don’t have to agree with any of the complex political ideologies or side with any warring factions—half the time nobody knows the real reasons behind what’s happening anyways. We’re called, as Christians, to remember that loss of life due to violence is always concerning and tragic and it requires our prayer and attention, whether it’s in Boston, Yemen, or Timbuktu.