Paris is at the forefront of many hearts and minds today. Paris is on the lips of many people praying, discussing and wishing for a world where we didn’t have to hear about terrorist attacks and bombings. But as I’ve been praying for Paris, I’ve also been praying for our world because Paris isn’t the only place dealing with and reeling from terrorist attacks. The attacks on September 11 here on US soil changed our country but there are places, many of the places where refugees are fleeing from, where these attacks were not just a singular or rare event. Terrorist attacks in some parts of the world are now a ‘normal’ part of life. Typing that sentence is scary for me because I don’t want to believe that somehow terror in any form has become normal.
I came across this Instagram post in my news feed between the Paris flags and it made me pause. I don’t know karunaezara, her post was reposted by a friend, but I think she expressed some of what I am feeling. However, I think the part she didn’t express well is why people here in the US aren’t trending #prayforbaghdad or #prayforbeirut. It’s not about race for the sake of race. It is indeed about knowledge and familiarity, which she and others might argue is just as filled with injustice but hear me out. I think it’s the familiarity that unites us as humans within the human race and that’s a beautiful thing but not the only thing. In some cases it’s easy to find these connections but sometimes we have to be pushed a little more to search for something deeper that connects us across unfamiliar boarders. In my Facebook feed, along with the Paris flags are picture after picture of people who have been to Paris and stood in front of the Eiffel Tower. I too have actually walked the streets of Paris. And for those who haven’t been to Paris, we know someone who has and have heard stories from them.
Now let’s contrast that with the places where the bombings are happening in the Middle East, cities like Baghdad and Beirut, as well as countries like Syria. By now we have all heard of these places but many of us have little to no connections to the places and people there. I have a few connections but maybe I’m an anomaly. I know one couple who actually went to the Middle East on vacation a few years ago and they loved it. And I do know a handful of people who work in the Middle East but they aren’t about to post pictures of themselves on Facebook with national monuments behind them because they want to continue to be able to live and work in these countries. And finally I have been fortunate enough to meet, know and interact with people who have left the Middle East for various reasons, from teaching ESL to friends of friends I have met during my travels. Most of those from these places are grieved by the state of their beloved countries and are worried about people they still know and love who can’t leave or won’t leave for various reasons. With this said, maybe everyone else can think of people they know that have some connection to the middle east but when Baghdad gets bombed, most of us don’t have pictures to post of us in front of the National Museum of Iraq and stories to tell about our favorite cafe in the city. Instead we have to dig deeper in order to find the compassion that comes more naturally and flows more freely for places like Paris which indeed were already familiar to us and already had our hearts.
Fortunately with all that is happening in the world, I believe that prayer really does have the power to change things, whether or not we are familiar with the place or simply praying by name for a city and people whom we have no other connection with besides both being here on this earth at this moment in time. The power of prayer is why Ryan and I continue to pray for Australia. Although we are still here in the US, we strongly believe in the power of prayer to go ahead of us and effect change. And I don’t believe that prayer is any less effective in other places around the world. So please, continue to pray for Paris, pray fervently, weep, cry out and plead. But also pray for our world, pray for the cities in the countries we don’t know as well because these places also need to be bathed in prayer. Pray for the people. Pray for the governments. Pray for those who are inflicting terror. Pray that hearts would be changed and communities restored. Pray for comfort and healing to those who are hurting. And pray for Jesus to return quickly because only he can ultimately heal our broken world.