by Arley Gill
The Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France, is of great national significance to the people of France and, undoubtedly, it also holds an iconic place in religious and world history.
I was truly saddened by the fire that gutted the building on 15 April.
As a student of history, I have an appreciation for the valuable historical treasures that are housed in the Cathedral. The building is some 850 years; that, in itself, means it needs preserving. I myself have been to Paris and have visited the Notre-Dame Cathedral several times. Each time I went, I was more and more impressed.
As everything else, there are lessons that we can learn from such catastrophic events.
On Easter Sunday, suicide bombers in Sri Lanka went to Christian churches and in hotels and detonated explosives. The terrorists murdered no less than 353 innocent Christians, hotels guests and workers and wounded approximately 500. I shake my head every time these dreadful things happen. You see, I just cannot understand how someone can kill and hurt innocent people like that: ending lives, destroying families. Regardless of your religious belief, life is not something that anyone can give back to another. Life should be respected.
These two recent events – the Sri Lanka massacre and the Notre-Dame Cathedral fire – really highlight some realities. The western press – namely, BBC and CNN – gave far more news coverage to the Notre Dame fire than the massacre in Sri Lanka. To be fair to those networks, I am not sure if they deliberately set out to do so. However, I will argue that an incident, where so many lives were lost as in Sri Lanka, deserves more attention than an incident where no life was lost, regardless of the value or importance of a building, including the Notre Dame Cathedral.
For some time now, I have been conscious to the fact that terrorism in developed western societies is given more attention than a similar act in a less developed nation somewhere else in the world, like Asia or Africa. I could be wrong but that’s my observation.
Terrorism is terrorism, anywhere in the world. And, each act of terror deserves equal treatment as the other. If not, it’s sure to leave the terrorists believing that it is more valuable to murder in certain countries than in others.
Then, there is the response from the financial centers around the world to Sri Lanka and Paris. Within 48 hours, close to a billion Euros was pledged for the rebuilding of the Notre Dame, even without the extent of the damage being known at the time. The same cannot be said for Sri Lanka or Haiti, after any of their natural disasters; nor for the Philippines after a typhoon would have struck; nor for any other country, not located in North American and Europe, that endures suffering after a horrific disaster in which human lives were lost and the survival of many more are threatened.
Now, these contradictions are stark. They bring into focus the sharp reality of the “haves’’ and the “have-nots’’; highlight the disparity between the developed and the undeveloped; or even the white and the non-white. It is clear that certain things in certain places are more valuable than other things in other places.
We do not need these reminders of the inequalities in this “global village’’. At times, I think it is reasonable to wish that the world was a fairer place to live.