How to Join the Fight Against Terror from Anywhere.
This is the third day in a row I have sat in the middle of my living room alone, wondering how to answer this question.
I didn’t turn the TV on today, though. I can’t bear the thought of watching the repeated footage again and feeling so many things with no outlet to process them: anger at the senseless violence, sadness for those lost, gratitude that all of my loved ones are okay, guilt for not being there to comfort, and an overwhelming frustration at my own helplessness.
Until this past September, Paris was my home for two years—two of the most formative of my life. I should have been on Rue Alibert this past Friday. This area of the city is where I spent most nights out. One of my dearest friends has a wine bar and grocery just down the street from Le Petit Cambodge. It’s my place. I’ve celebrated two birthdays there, and it has seen numerous aperos, going aways, and long talks over (several) glasses of wine. It is the first place I would bring visitors when they arrived in the City of Lights. It’s home.
I should have been there.
Of course I am thankful that I was far away from the barrels of the guns so mercilessly used by the attackers, but I also have this absurd feeling of guilt, being safely tucked away in my small hometown. I feel like I have failed as a friend, as a resident of Paris. I wasn’t there to be with my friend after witnessing friends and neighbors gunned down in the street where he grew up, to help any injured. I wasn’t there to comfort another, who waited anxiously for her flatmate to return from the stadium, or another that spent the night trying to locate other loved ones around the city.
I should have been there.
I have spent the last three days in tears of frustration thinking of all the things I would like to do for my loved ones and the city of Paris, my second home, but I am unable to simply because my life has taken me elsewhere in this period. I am so ANGRY.
So, instead of more nothing, I am doing the only thing that seemed reasonable this morning, I decided to write.
I thought that perhaps I am not alone in my feelings of helplessness and frustration. Most likely there are others like me who want to do something in the wake of all of the senseless violence we have seen in Paris, Beirut, Baghdad, and other parts of the world. Most likely there are others like me that have sat on their couches and watched things unfold on the television—afraid to watch because of what they might see, but more afraid to turn it off in case they miss something that might tell them their loved ones are ok.
Most likely there are others like me who realize that more than anything else right now (be it politics, other attacks, religious differences, etc.), we need to be united everywhere, and we need to encourage others to do so too. We need to use our words to bring people together, not drive one another apart.
We need to remember that terrorist groups like the Islamic State target our cultures—both the tangible and intangible parts of it—specifically to divide us. Their ultimate goal: to destory our way of life and snuff us out. They are on a quest for a cultural genocide of the world. They target our heritage and monuments. They seek to destroy our way of life as we go out for food or drinks and see a show, to simply go out and live. They use a perversion of their religion to justify the raping and killing of innocent people, citing the will of ‘Allah’ as validation for wiping out the history of the world. They breed hate and nothing else, using Islam as a scapegoat for their actions.
We cannot let this happen. We cannot let them win. We cannot point fingers at one another and judge based on skin color or belief systems. We cannot be fearful of others from unfamiliar places. No matter where we come from in the world, what we must BE is the one thing we all share—human. We need to spread love and compassion, seek to educate others on tolerance and extremism, and above all, never lose hope.
I am tired of feeling helpless. I won’t be anymore.
Here are 5 ways you can help too:
1.) Use social media to spread positivity.
In the past few days there has been a lot of back and forth on various social media platforms of ‘they shared this, but not that,’ ‘Why is it #prayforparis but not Beirut?’ ‘How can one event be more important than the other?‘ ‘What hypocrisy,‘ etc. We are criticizing others for being human.
This type of rhetoric is exactly the opposite of what we need. No one terrorist attack is more important than the other. I don’t believe anyone actually feels that way. Don’t degrade people for their ability to find empathy in some situations easier than in others. Applaud the fact that they found empathy. Period. Then take that moment as a way to nurture that empathy. Use your words to spread positivity, find articles that will expand knowledge and perspectives, open up discussions as to how to combat ignorance in the media, and help those around you grow in their compassion. Be the example of hope we need in the world.
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
– Martin Luther King”
2.) Understand all Muslims are NOT terrorists.
Sadly, after events like this happen, those that suffer by default are all those individuals who practice Islam. In reality, only a very small percentage of practicing Muslims are considered extremists. Most Muslims are just like anyone else–kind, hospitable, loving human beings. They abhor violence, and in reality have suffered more violence during the Islamic State’s war on global civilization than anyone. We have to stop blaming an entire belief system for one small part. Islamophobia is another tool that the terrorists use to divide us all and drive more to their numbers. They love intolerance. Don’t be someone who perpetuates that ignorance or allows others to do so either.
The above photo is from after the attacks on Paris in January. I know these young people. They are friends I met during my time in Morocco, a country of amazing beauty and love.
Their signs read: “Nous sommes musulmans mais nous sommes contre ce crime.” -We are Muslims, but we are against this crime.
“l’islam c’est dans le coeur pas dans les armes.” – Islam is in the heart not in arms.
These people are the majority, not the minority. Remember that.
3.) Look for a way to get involved locally or from a distance.
I have also constantly thought about what it is that I can do from so far away to have an impact immediately somewhere. Where do I start? I thought others might wonder too. These are some of the options I’ve come across:
- Paris residents are lining up to give blood at donation centers in the city, my friends included. You can too. Blood donation is always in need no matter where you are in the world. Find a donation center near you.
- Donate to the Red Cross. Their volunteers were quickly on the scene to help save as many lives as possible Friday night. Help that mission continue.
- Find out how you can help other Syrian refugees fleeing the Islamic State. Be a positive influence in the lives of people who have had to leave everything—even their homes—behind.
- Donate to the Friends of Fondation de France. This particular charity is US based and processes US credit cards (you can also designate where your money goes if you wish). Other French charities are out there too. However, sites like Secours Populaire Francais could make donating difficult if all you have available is a US credit card. Although please feel free to do so, if you can! This particular charity provides material services during emergency situations.
- Stand in solidarity with Paris on Monday the 16th of November. There will be a minute of silence at noon, Paris time. That will be a bit early here (5am Central time, but if you’re up, why not?)
- Help support victims of terrorism everywhere. Remember Paris isn’t the only place affected by these atrocites. Find out where else your help can be given.
4.) Continue to live your life freely, and look for new ways to support cultural initiatives everywhere.
Don’t let the threat of violence take away the freedoms of this life that so many have fought to keep intact. When attacks like this happen, the goal is to change how we live our daily lives, so that we live in fear. Parisians have refused to do this. Even after the events of Friday, Parisians still took to the streets to have a drink in cafes with friends. Small acts of defiance like this keep the fire of hope alive we’ll need in the coming months.
We will need to unite together. Our numbers are greater than those that threaten civilizations that value freedom and liberty. If we work together, love will always win. Take some time to learn about a country or culture other than yours. The more you understand another’s differences, the easier it is to see our similarities. Check out various lists compiled on the internet about where to find information about different cultures of the world, or visit the UNESCO World Heritage Centre to learn about places all over the globe that have contributed to the development of humanity. You can even donate to heritage sites in need with the #CultureCannotWait initiative. Tolerance is built through understanding and education. We must be willing to learn about each other and embrace both the similarities and differences if we are to move forward.
5.) Share the message with others.
This is a simple request. You can send this post to family, friends, acquaintences, etc., or simply talk about the ideas in here. Building a bridge across seemingly impassable waters begins when even just one of us believes we can make the impossible, possible.
Don’t just #prayfortheworld, learn to love all parts of it, and hope for the future despite all odds. Then do something to spread that hope.
You all are my hope. ❤