Attacks. Terror. Death.
The headlines flooded the media worldwide, recounting the recent tragedies in Paris, the Middle East, Kenya, and the United States. Hashtags including #PrayforPeace, #RefugeesWelcome, #PrayforKenya, and #BlackLivesMatter trended as millions of people publically expressed their grief. However, beyond the effectiveness of social networking to voice opinions and send prayers, there are other substantive ways to help the victims, their families, and others affected by these devastating events.
Differences in religion and race are common themes in these catastrophes. Extremists attacked the Parisian headquarters of the Charlie Hebdo newspaper in early January, due to the paper’s cartoon satires of the Islamic Prophet, Muhammad. Other radicals suicide-bombed the city in November, killing 130 people. A day before, suicide bombers affiliated with ISIS left forty dead in Lebanon.
Lebanon has been subjected previously to numerous attacks by ISIS, which actively seeks to persecute Christians and Shia Muslims throughout the Middle East, especially in Syria, a country already entangled in a civil war. The violence forced over four million Syrians to flee and seek refuge in neighboring countries including Lebanon. In Kenya, a militant group aimed to retaliate against Christians by killing 147 people at the Garissa University College.
Misconceptions and allegations of police brutality led to the deaths of African-American men including Michael Brown and Freddie Gray.
There are tangible ways for people to contribute to diminishing the hostility that intolerance engenders by donating to organizations. Although the French Red Cross no longer needs blood donations for the Paris bombing victims, monetary donations are still being accepted for post-catastrophe relief and rehabilitation.
Other non-profit organizations including Secours Populaire Française and Secours Catholique Caritas France respond in the immediate aftermath to emergencies but also routinely strive to help the disadvantaged in France. Secours Populaire France helps resolve the daily challenges faced by the impoverished by supplying food and clothing and offering access to emergency services. Secours Catholique Caritas France is part of the Catholic Church and aims to help many pursue a better life through its development efforts. Believing that “everyone accesses a worthy place in society,” the association helps all, regardless of their religious and personal values.
In the Middle East, World Vision helps Syrian refugees gain access to basic supplies. The organization focuses on Syrian children, who are not only more susceptible to infections and diseases from malnutrition and poor hygiene but are also vulnerable to forced labor and sexual exploitation. These children cannot attend school and lack access to books and toys. World Vision thus accepts monetary donations to help the refugee families physically by providing food, water, and clothing, and also mentally through educational programs and trauma care. UNICEF and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) also provide refugee assistance, emphasizing the need for more support as the winter approaches.
Lastly, people can continue to spread awareness of events over social media, especially events in Kenya and Lebanon, as both countries felt overlooked during the attacks in Paris. Elie Fares, a Lebanese doctor blogged, “When my people died on the streets of Beirut on November 12th, world leaders did not rise in condemnation. There were no statements expressing sympathy with the Lebanese people… Their death was but an irrelevant fleck on the international news cycle.”