Like everyone, I was shocked and deeply saddened by the attacks on Friday night in Paris. We celebrated Bill’s birthday there a few weeks ago, so many of the neighborhoods were familiar. One attack was very close to where we stayed. Like, I suspect, most of you, I sought immediately to find a way on Facebook to show my support and stand in solidarity with those innocent victims of senseless violence. By the time I woke up on Saturday, most of my friends had converted their profile pictures to reflect the French flag as they stood with the almost 130 people killed.
That is as it should be. However, do you know what the flag of Yemen looks like? Neither did I. (It is three horizontal stripes: red, white, and black.) The reason I ask is, back in September, the Saudis dropped American bombs on a wedding in Yemen and killed 131 innocent people who were celebrating a sacred event. Eighty-one of those who died were women and children. I vaguely remember hearing about it … I THINK … I didn’t post anything on my Facebook page, though. I didn’t change my profile picture. I don’t remember praying for peace on the Sunday after, I’m ashamed to say.
Why? Why didn’t we pray for the innocents of Yemen, but we did for the victims in Paris? Why didn’t we change our Facebook pictures? Why weren’t we outraged by American bombs raining from the sky on people in a country that had not attacked us nor Saudi Arabia?
Please do not hear this as a call to reduce our grieving with the people of Paris, but a plea to enlarge the borders of our compassion. Until we understand that we don’t care about “their” suffering like we do “our” suffering, we are part of the problem that leads to attacks like Paris. No, that doesn’t justify it, but our endless war has not reduced violence nor made us safer. Perhaps we should consider that Jesus’ way was more than just a hypothetical suggestion.
Rev. Michael Piazza