Written by Carrie Baker. Media by Kayla Morton.
Less than a month ago, Christians all around the world were celebrating Easter. While many attended church and then returned home for dinner and an Easter egg Hunt, Christians in Pakistan faced a different reality. As the sun set on March 27, 2016, families began to leave Gulshan-e-Iqbal, a children’s park in the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore when a bomb went off, killing over seventy and wounding nearly 300. Over half of the victims were children. Authorities later released information that the attack was carried out by a splinter faction of the Pakistani Taliban called Jamaat-ul-Ahrar.
The bombing in Pakistan happened just five days after the suicide bombing attack in Brussels, and mere months after the attack in Paris. While each of these attacks was equally as devastating, the attack in Pakistan got very little media attention compared to the attacks in Paris or Brussels. The public was immediately updated on news of the Paris attacks last November, and the recent attacks in Brussels were no different. Many heard that Christians in Pakistan had been attacked on Easter Sunday, but other than that the public didn’t know too many details. The #PrayForParis hashtag went viral within minutes, and social media users blew up feeds with the image of a peace sign encompassing the Eiffel tower. The attack on Pakistan didn’t get quite the same attention. Some twitter users spoke out against the sad truth.
In the midst of all the terror that has occurred in the past few months and been covered by the media in the United States, the attack on the Christians in Pakistan was different. There were zero American casualties and the majority of those dead or wounded were Muslims, not Christians. While there may have been many reasons why the American media chose not to bring as much attention to this attack, it seems impossible to ignore these correlations.
We sat down with Dr. Christina Smerick, Chair of the Religion and Theology Department, and Shapiro Chair of Jewish-Christian Studies at Greenville College and she expanded upon this disheartening reality. “It’s a natural human impulse to feel more immediate compassion and sympathy with people that we share something in common with. I think that’s problematic because God loves all people.”
The fact is, we as Christians are called to react differently. Galatians 6:2 says, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” This scripture isn’t exclusive. “One another” means God’s children, and everyone is a child of God. Whether they are Christian or Muslim, a resident of the United States, Paris, Brussels, or Pakistan; we are called to engage. To bear someone’s burden doesn’t mean to merely acknowledge his or her suffering. As Christians, we are called to engage. We are called to educate ourselves and help take on the pain and suffering that others are experiencing as if it were our own. Smerick mentioned Americans lack both the understanding of religious persecution and the call to aid those who are experiencing it.
“I don’t think we [as American Christians] have a good grasp of what persecution really looks like. I think it would be helpful for American Christians…to learn about how Christians in different areas of the world live and the circumstances under which they operate.” When asked how Americans, specifically Christian Americans in the United States can better respond during times of terror and persecution, Smerick stated, “I do think that we have to both fight against the tendency to only feel sympathy when it’s people who look like us or worship like us.”
As Christians, it’s vital to remember everyone is a child of God, and if you aren’t religious, it’s important to remember everyone is human and deserves to be treated as such, no matter their location or religious affiliation. All victims deserve compassion and every injustice requires action. We are called to always step up and speak for humanity and peace, even when it doesn’t trend on social media or make the nightly news.