Why do we care more about Notre Dame than Sri Lankan bombings?
- Credit: AP
Is it a symptom of the modern age that a terrible atrocity like the Sri Lankan bombings in which 350 people died gets less media coverage than a fire in France in which nobody was hurt? Iain Dale explains why
All terrorist atrocities, by definition, involve tragedy. The bombings in Sri Lanka were no different. More than 350 people were killed, with hundreds injured. At the time of writing, Daesh has claimed responsibility, but then they would, wouldn't they? Because of the attacks on churches and the fact that it took place on Easter Sunday, it is easy to read an anti-Christian religious motive, but when you add in the attacks of three hotels, it makes it much more complicated. The Sri Lankan defence minister said on Tuesday that two domestic terror groups were responsible and it was payback for the attack in New Zealand in which a single white terrorist killed more than 50 Muslims in two Mosques. That was always preposterous, given the fact that an attack like this would have been in the planning for months.
What galls me is the fact that when there's a terror attack in France, Germany or the USA, it receives blanket coverage on radio and TV. When it happens in a country like New Zealand, everyone goes into 'rolling coverage' mode. And quite right too. However, have you noticed that when several dozen or several hundred people are killed and maimed in countries like Sir Lanka, Bangladesh, Pakistan or Somalia, the coverage is, well, less than blanket?
I think this is another case of the 'People Like Us' syndrome. If the victims or the perpetrators of a terror attack are predominantly white and middle class, the media goes into overdrive. If the victims are brown and in a far away country, less so.
Politicians are the same. Just think of the reaction to the terrorist murder of Charlie Hebdo journalists in Paris a few years ago. Was this any more shocking than any other terrorist attacks? Shocking it was, but no more so than various car bombings in Iraq. And yet it attracted several days of rolling news coverage, to the exclusion of virtually everything else. Politicians almost fell over themselves to join the French President on a silent march through Paris a few days afterwards. We were all encouraged to chant the mantra 'Je Suis Charlie'.
I see no sign of the world's leaders descending on Colombo in the next few days, or the media giving this atrocity to blanket coverage it ought to merit. On my Sunday morning LBC show I went against the trend and did an hour-long phone-in to allow the large ex-pat Sri Lankan community to express their thoughts. The phone-lines were jammed.
The fact that these attacks on Christian churches were perpetrated on Easter Sunday, the holiest day in the Christian calendar, should also give us pause for thought. Christians are fast becoming the most persecuted religious minority in the world and yet attacks in Nigeria, the Philippines or Egypt are barely reported in the West. In China and India there are countless examples of Christian persecution. And let's not forget that over the last century Christians have been more or less completely driven out of the Middle East, the very region which gave birth to their religion.
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The fact is we care much more about a fire ravaging through a building like Notre Dame, than we do about the human consequences of anti-Christian terror attacks is astonishing. Our hypocrisy is breath-taking.
Theresa May, in her Easter message offered support to Christians around the world who face 'huge danger' because of their faith. She said: 'We must stand up for the right of everyone, no matter what their religion' to follow their beliefs. for many Christians around the world, such simple acts of faith can bring huge danger'. She went on: 'Churches have been attacked. Christians murdered. Families forced to flee their homes. That is why the Government has launched a global review into the persecution of Christians.' This message was very timely given that it was issued a few hours before the Sri Lankan attack. It will be interesting to see the conclusions of her global review and it won't make for happy reading. Less clear is what politicians can and are willing to do about it.
So when you see a snippet in your newspaper about a car bomb attack in Lahore, killing 100 people, think about how much coverage that same event would have attracted if it had happened in Belgium. And then hold our media to account for its brazen hypocrisy.
Email Iain at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @iaindale