This article was originally published in Issue 7, Fiftieth Year of The Minstrel (December 10, 2015). Click here to view the entire issue.
Tragedies in Paris, Beirut, Syria are more similar than they seem: citizens yearn for safety
In the wake of the Nov. 13 Paris attacks that left around 130 dead and 350 wounded, Paris, one of the most visited countries in the world, is eerily quiet. French citizens are shopping less and staying indoors to avoid concert halls and restaurants. Paris’ economy also relies heavily on tourism, which has been greatly affected during what is usually a busy time during the holiday season. Many tourists are cancelling their flights and hotel rooms are empty.
Some DeSales students canceled their reservations on the spring break trip to Paris, as well. Students on the trip will spend four days in Paris and two days in Geneva. Nick Luchko, director of student engagement and leadership, says some people have opted out of going due to the attacks.
“Students needed to talk to their parents about whether or not it’s right for them to go,” Luchko said.
There is still a sizeable number of students signed up for the trip, which remains scheduled. Students will travel following normal safety procedures and Luchko said he has scheduled many meetings with the students that cover safety during their trip.
“I do everything in my power to ensure students’ safety,” he said.
Additionally, students will be traveling to Paris in the World Crime and Justice class this spring. Brian MacDonald, director of external affairs, said he advises students to be more cautious and attentive when they are abroad. After the Paris attacks, he reached out to the students studying abroad in Europe, reminding them to be more vigilant than usual.
Many students, whether going to Paris this spring or not, are showing their support for Paris on social media by changing their profile picture to an overlay of the French flag. As the United States is supporting Paris just as Paris supported us after 9/11, it must not be forgotten that other, less developed countries need support too.
One day before the terrorist attacks in Paris, there was a double suicide bomber attack in Beirut, Lebanon, that the Islamic State also claimed responsibility for. This attack left around 40 dead and 200 wounded.
Although Paris has not seen an attack this detrimental in decades and Beirut has bombings more frequently than other countries, the bombings in Beirut are not any less serious. Stores and neighborhoods were destroyed and innocent lives lost.
Overall, Beirut did not see nearly as much support or attention as Paris did. One reason for this is Americans view Parisians as more similar to them because of their shared Western culture, so Americans empathize with them more while viewing conflict in the Middle East as a “norm.”
Another reason is over the course of the Syrian civil war, which has been occurring since 2011, four million Syrian refugees have left Syria and about one million of them are in Lebanon. Many opponents of migration are looking at the events in Paris and Beirut to argue that no more refugees should be allowed in; however, Syrians are not the enemy.
Mothers and children are fleeing from terrorism as the deadly war wages on between those who support President Bashar al-Assad and those who want a new government. Millions of children have been forced to quit school due to the crisis and many are at risk of becoming ill, malnourished or abused if they stay in Syria. With winter around the corner, refugees need food, water, clothes, shoes and heat more than ever, all basic needs for survival.
Since the war began, World Vision reports that more than 240,000 people have been killed, including 12,000 children, and one million have been wounded or permanently disabled. They also say it is the worst humanitarian crisis of all time, affecting over twelve million people. That’s more than the Haiti Earthquake, Hurricane Katrina and the Indian Ocean Tsunami combined. While this war seems like a world away, Syrian families wish for the same things the families from America, Beirut and Paris are wishing for while the world is in chaos: safety.