Everyone heard about Paris. 4 gunmen. 17 dead. 18 wounded. It was the deadliest act of terrorism in France since 1961.
The office for the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo was sprayed with bullets from AK-47s wielded by two masked gunmen. The ordinarily scenic Parisian downtown became a murder scene as the gun fight spilled over into the city’s narrow streets. Scared onlookers with cell phones captured the attackers’ murderous rampage from just about every angle. Immediately, news stations were wall-to-wall with coverage, video, interviews, photos, and in-depth analysis of every minute detail. There’s no doubt that most of us were made aware, quickly and repeatedly, about the tragedy that happened in Paris, France on January 7.
While the world was still reeling over the Paris attacks, two more terrorist assaults took place (one before and one after) on a completely different continent. As bad as Paris was, and indeed it was horrific, these attacks were even more sinister and brutal in execution, mode, and body count. And yet, few of us even heard about them.
On January 10, just three days after the Charlie Hebdo incident, two 10-year old girls, with bombs strapped to their chests, made their way into a Nigerian market place and were blown up. Four people died. (I personally suspect that these two girls were part of the hundreds previously captured by Boko Haram, an Islamic terrorist group, last year – who were, likely, abused and forced to do this rather than being willing participants. But that’s just a strong hunch on my part.) It didn’t happen in the streets of Paris. It happened at a market place in a town called Potiskum.
As bad as that was, it was the milder of the two January, Nigerian attacks. Four days before the Paris murders (on January 3), militants from the same terrorist group stormed a tiny town firing assault rifles, launching grenades and detonating explosives that maimed and killed mostly women, children, and the elderly. The town of Baga was razed, burned, and riddled with bullet holes. Bodies littered the dusty Nigerian streets, for several days after. It took authorities that long to make an accurate body count. And what was the final total in the end? 2,000 dead. 2,000. 2,000. Let me say that again: 2,000 dead in one day.
Now, unlike my usual articles, I don’t have any answers today. I mostly have questions. I am fully aware that my emotions and bias are shading my perspective. So, please forgive me in advance if I go too far. But in light of all these events, I am left upset, confused, even angered by several issues:
- How can there be a terrorist attack that produces a body count rivaling 9-11 and there be little, to-no news coverage of it? (At least, not until after Paris.)
- Is the movie-like plot line of an organized, downtown Parisian attack simply more tantalizing and “juicy” to the news networks than an indiscriminate mass murder in a small, third world village? Is that the difference?
- I hesitate to even ask this question, but could it possibly be an issue of race? On the one hand you have 12 (mostly, if not all) white Parisians and 2,000 black Nigerians. There’s something lopsided here. I realize this question has been asked a lot with recent events in the US, but I think it’s worth someone saying again: does our society, at large, value some lives more than others?
- I realize that if the major news networks gave equal reporting time to every terrorist incident in the world, it would be overwhelming – but my point is this: 2,000 people dying at one time is not an insignificant story by anyone’s standard! Those are Pearl Harbor-type totals! And, yet, the incidents garnished little, to-no attention from the press at all. How sad.
I suppose what grips my heart the most is something that CNN, FoxNews, MSNBC and other news outlet care nothing about. Northern Nigeria, Potiskum in particular, is the “capitol” city of the B* people, the unreached people group our church has been praying for, visiting, and hoping to reach with the gospel for 5 years. The chief elder of the B* lives in Potiskum. Not only have I been to that village and its market places, I even spent the night there with others from our church. (By the way, now you know why we haven’t gone back to Nigeria lately.)
I have to wonder if hundreds of B* men, women, and children didn’t go into eternity on January 3 and 10. I fear that is the case. Maybe that’s what upsets me the most.
All I can say is, “Even so, come Lord Jesus!”