Last night’s news of the explosions in Boston was truly horrendous. Within moments of it happening my Twitter feed went into overdrive with every picture and piece of video flying round the world as it was hastily retweeted. Even though the horror of the 9/11 disaster is burnt into our collective conscience, we still find that any bomb attack within a western nation such as the US still has the power to surprise and shock. There are families who are in mourning as a result of the actions of one or more individuals intent on spewing out evil and destruction on a day that was designated for celebration and enjoyment.
There’s something deep within the human psyche that compels us to react to traumatic events by doing something. Sometimes as with the Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004 we give and give money in the hope that it will do some good. Most of the time though we respond by sharing a thought or a comment, often through social media, because there is little else that we feel able to do. Such responses allow us to emotionally connect to the event and demonstrate to both ourselves and others that we care.
President Obama has done the obligatory thing by giving a speech to reassure his people that chaos will not ensue and that good will overcome evil. Over here David Cameron and Ed Miliband have both offered their thoughts. Offering your thoughts is a funny thing really even though we all do it. It basically indicates that you care about what has happened and those who have suffered. It always seems second rate to praying though. Inevitably the Twitter hashtag #prayforboston has sprung up and at the time of writing this is trending high up the list on Twitter. Prayer is still seen by the majority as of more power and consequence. We don’t see #offerthoughtsforboston and probably never will. It just doesn’t carry the same weight and authority.
So I’m praying for Boston, for those injured and those whose lives have been devastated in an instance. I’m praying that God will bring healing and comfort and peace where there is currently mourning and pain. I’m praying too that the killers will be found quickly and that there will be no further attacks.
But the events in the US have also prompted me to pray for those affected by a worse series of attacks that took place yesterday as well where many more people died. It hasn’t been getting the wall-to-wall coverage on the 24 hour news channels because it’s not seen as newsworthy, because it’s the same old story that we’ve heard time and again, in fact most people wouldn’t have seen it on the BBC website unless they were making the effort to find it.
Yesterday’s bombings in Iraq have killed at least 31 people and wounded more than 200, yet we hardly react to it at all. What’s the difference? Is it that we have become so numb to the regular loss of life in places like this that it’s easier to ignore it than to think about the reality of the situation? We choose to suck up every tidbit of news from one attack whilst turning a blind eye to another. Somehow the Boston attacks feel closer to home because we understand the culture and our worldview allows us to comprehend what has happened. We are aware of places like Iraq where life is more fragile, but struggle to comprehend the religious tensions that cause much of this loss of life. It’s hard for our brains to make sense of it. If you have read a book by the Vicar of Baghdad Andrew White, then you’ll have had a taste of what life in these conditions is like and it begins to hit you. Losing a friend or parent or child through violence is no less painful no matter where you live even if you’re more accustomed to experiencing an unnecessary loss of life around you.
The tragic events in Boston deserve our attention and prayers or failing that, our thoughts. But as we remember those who are suffering there perhaps it would be good to also be praying that our hearts would not be hardened towards the other parts of the world where this sort of devastation is more regular and that our sense of compassion wouldn’t be limited to those caught up in a media frenzy or who think and live like we do.