We need stories of hope, as we remember not only Paris but also Beirut and Garissa University in Kenya and Baghdad and Syria. Karuna Ezara Parikh wrote a poem reminding us that Paris is part of a whole suffering world. In the Facebook post of the poem, Parikh writes that “… the words #SyrianRefugeeCrisis are just as devastating as #PrayForParis. It’s time to pray for humanity. It is time to make all places beloved. It’s time to pray for the world.”
Parikh’s poem asks that we think about the selectivity of public grief. It begins:
It is not Paris we should pray for.
It is the world. It is a world in which Beirut
reeling from bombings two days before Paris,
is not covered in the press.
A world in which a bomb goes off at a funeral in Baghdad
and not one person’s status update says “Baghdad”,
because not one white person died in that fire.
This poem reminds me of Emmanuel Ortiz’s powerful “Moment of Silence,” that begins with 9/11 and goes on to a litany of remembrance of suffering people around the world in “a justice poem for never forgetting.”
I choose to remember not only Paris, but also Beirut and Baghdad and Garissa University and Syria. Somali-British poet Warsan Shire says it poignantly:
i held an atlas in my lap
ran my fingers across the whole world
where does it hurt?
Among the horror stories, human actions offer examples of heroism and solidarity and hope.
In Beirut, on Thursday, ISIS claimed credit for suicide bombers who killed 45 and wounded more than 200. But for the heroism of one man, the death toll would have been much higher. Adel Termos, walking with his young daughter, saw the first explosion. Then he saw a second bomber. Some reports say the second bomber was moving toward a mosque. Others say he was moving toward the crowd around the first explosion. Termos tackled the second bomber, preventing him from reaching the crowd. While his courageous action saved many other lives, Termos and his daughter died as the second bomber’s vest exploded. His heroism offers inspiration to us all.
In Paris, the November 13 terrorist attacks kept tens of thousands of soccer fans confined inside the stadium for hours. When they were finally released at midnight, they left singing La Marseillaise, the French national anthem. Other Parisians responded with #PorteOuverte Twitter posts, opening their homes to people stranded by the attacks. Their actions defy the fear that terrorists seek to impose on us all.
The late Fred Rogers, who was everyone’s neighbor, passed along his mother’s advice: “Always look for the helpers….If you look for the helpers, you’ll know that there’s hope.” Hope comes because, as we look for helpers, we can discover within ourselves the desire and ability to become helpers.
In remembering, I choose to look for hope.