opinion

COLUMN: Nothing but empty condolences for Sri Lanka



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Fathers from a local church carry the coffins for the religious mass at St. Sebastian Church on April 23 in Negambo, Sri Lanka. At least 320 people were killed with hundreds more injured after coordinated attacks on churches and hotels on Easter. Tribune News Service Buy Photos

Hopefully you have heard by now that eight explosions rocked the nation of Sri Lanka Easter Sunday and took the lives of 321 people and injured over 500 more.

Six suicide bombers carried out a series of coordinated attacks on churches and hotels and was the worst violence the island nation has experienced since the end of its civil war 10 years ago.

Data retrieved from Google Trends and reported by Al-Jazeera shows that Google searches for the Notre Dame Cathedral fire outnumbered the Sri Lanka attacks seven-to-one.

Despite the hundreds of deaths, the countless more lives tragically altered forever and the destruction of three churches, Sri Lanka has received significantly less attention by the public than the Notre Dame fire.  

When the 850-year-old Notre Dame Cathedral caught fire last week, thousands on social media posted their condolences and their solidarity with the French. However, no such massive empathetic movement has been directed toward the Sri Lankans.

Furthermore, the lack of outcry and empathy from Americans is more perplexing, because four Americans perished in these attacks as well as the citizens of 11 other countries. Does this mean that even though Americans died it happened in a far away country so we stop caring? Other than the Eiffel Tower turning its lights off to honor the victims and a speech by Pope Francis, there has been very little of a unified outcry against these attacks in Sri Lanka.

In fact, in the wake of the attacks, many conservatives such as Newt Gingrich and Fox News personality Brit Hume condemned former President Barack Obama’s and Hillary Clinton’s tweets of condolences because they used the phrase “Easter worshippers” instead of Christians to refer to the victims of the attacks.

Moreover, President Trump, after the attacks, tweeted about the Mueller report and “No Collusion” six times compared to the two tweets related to the Sri Lanka attacks.

To make the optics worse Trump’s first tweet mistakenly gave the wrong death toll, stating that millions died in the attacks, and in his second tweet he mistook Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena for Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.

Trump later corrected both tweets, but the lack of sincerity within these condolence messages clearly demonstrates that Trump’s condolence is a practice of custom that is not actually backed by actions or sincerity.

Instead of dividing one another on something that should be a nonissue such as the difference between Easter Worshipper and Christian, we should be maintaining unity to show our solidarity with the people of Sri Lanka.

If this atrocity occured closer to home in the Western Hemisphere there would be a meaningful, unified movement to memorialize this tragedy. Instead these attacks are recognized almost in passing by the public and some members of the media as if attacks of this scale are the norm in that region.

Furthermore, according to the New York Times, ISIS has recently claimed responsibility for the attacks, so instead of writing a couple of empty condolence tweets, Trump should devote resources to take serious action on this threat to global security.

These attacks are more alarming than a fire in the Notre Dame Cathedral and should be treated as such. The more or less apathy towards casualties of terror attacks in faraway places like Sri Lanka has to be stopped because an American life is not worth more than another. This kind of violence for less developed countries is not the norm, and seeking justice for the victims of these atrocities is crucial to preventing further terrorist attacks around the world.

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